The chef recently met with a group of FutureChef alumni at his flagship Novelli at City Quays restaurant in Belfast, which marked his first appearance as head judge of the Northern Ireland competition.
In the role, Novelli will oversee the development of young chefs – aged 12-16 – across different stages of the competition, before announcing the winner of the regional finals at Belfast Metropolitan College on Thursday 10 February 2022.
Throughout the four-staged competition, budding chefs in the Northern Ireland heats will be introduced to themes such as sustainability, and plant-based and zero-waste cooking.
They will also be mentored by Geoff Baird, business development chef at Henderson Foodservice, a FutureChef partner, and gain insights into the industry, as well as careers advice and guidance to encourage them to explore career opportunities within the sector.
“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to work with, and mentor, young chefs who will ultimately go on to do great things in the industry," says Novelli.
"I can’t explain just how important programmes like Springboard’s FutureChef are in terms of putting culinary arts and hospitality on the map for young people kickstarting their careers.
“I didn’t think twice about being part of this incredible initiative and look forward to sharing my advice, knowledge and skills to ultimately encourage more people into the industry."
The FutureChef competition also takes place across Scotland, England and Wales. Young people across the nation compete in four different stages from October through to March, including school heats, local finals and regional finals, before culminating at the national final in London.
Since the competition began in 1999, almost 200,000 young people aged 12-16 have taken part.
“This is a time of the year that we all look forward to here at Springboard, as FutureChef gets off the ground across the whole of the UK," says Chris Gamm, CEO of Springboard.
"More than ever, we need to keep culinary careers at the forefront of students’ career choices, ensuring we have enthusiastic and talented young chefs entering the industry. Springboard’s FutureChef is perfectly placed to do this by equipping young people with the basic skills and knowledge that they need.
“We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Jean-Christophe Novelli to the Springboard family. A pioneer in the culinary arts world, he will naturally bring out the best in young people competing across Northern Ireland."