Rising Star: Megan Armstrong Crowned Young Pastry Chef of the Year
21HG team celebrating with Megan Armstrong

Megan Armstrong, a skilled chef hailing from the North East, has recently earned the prestigious title of Young Pastry Chef of the Year.

At the age of 26, Megan is a valued member of the 21 Hospitality Group in Newcastle. Her exceptional abilities shone brightly as she secured the top spot in the pastry final of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence 2023, a distinguished competition held in London.

She was presented with this award at a special gala dinner held at Claridge’s in London where she was accompanied by Nick Shottel, director of hospitality at 21HG along with mentor and renowned chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne, the owner of the Newcastle-based group.

As well as the kudos that goes with this national accolade, Megan receives a bursary from the Savoy Educational Trust that includes a visit to Moet et Chandon in the Champagne region of France and £2,000, along with an engraved trophy, a chef’s jacket and membership of the AAE Alumni.

“This is such a prestigious award in the industry and means a lot. It’s a great accolade and I’m now looking forward to my educational trip to Champagne.”

Megan, who originally comes from Cumbria

Megan is one of a long line of 21HG employees – from the kitchens and front of the house, who’ve achieved an Award of Excellence over the years. Group pastry chef Helen Doyle, herself an AAE alumnus, has been instrumental in developing something of a production line of talent. Past achiever, Sophie Bamford, mentored by Helen, was awarded Young Pastry Chef in 2018. Martin Malinowski, head chef at St. Vincent was awarded Best Young Chef several years ago.

Nick Shottel, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts who takes responsibility for staff development across 21HG, has coached around five front-of-house achievers over the years. This latest award not only recognises the individual talents of Megan but is a recognition of the efforts the group makes in training and staff retention.

“Megan’s achievement is hugely impressive and fully deserved. She beat off strong national competition. It’s also a testimony to the strength of the training programme and staff development we have in place across our restaurants. We aim to encourage people to build their skills and develop their careers with us.

“Megan has been with us for five years. She’s been developing and learning all the time and this award of excellence is a culmination of her dedication and the support she’s had within the organisation. She has a big future ahead of her.”

Nick Shottel

Megan works within the pastry team at 21 restaurants on Newcastle’s Quayside. Her desserts and pastries are served within 21, the Broad Chare and St Vincent on the Quayside; and can be found at Café 21, Saltwater Fish Co and Porterhouse in Fenwick department store.

The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Awards of Excellence are the industry’s gold standard and provide a rigorous test of culinary skills. Entrants must impress the judges by preparing four dishes in five hours while also showing an understanding of food hygiene, sustainability and organisation.

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