HATS off to chef Ken Harker – he’s a star in the kitchen.
The Wearside-born cook is celebrating after being awarded his first Michelin Star.
The 32-year-old, who now lives in Kilkenny, Southern Ireland, works in one of only two restaurants in the country that have been awarded a new star this year.
Ken, who still returns to Wears die to visit his family in Whitburn, said the Lady Helen restaurant, which serves modern Irish cuisine, won the star thanks to lots of hard work.
“We have a fantastic, young, hard working team here,” he said. “Everyone works together to drive the team forward in the same direction, and that’s what makes us stand out.
“And we have a very seasonal menu. We try and source the best local ingredients.
“At the minute we have a lot of game on the menu – venison, and duck, and fois gras.”
Ken, who is married to Irish wife Lisa, 31, and has a eight-month-old daughter, Maddie, said he still has a taste for home despite moving away from Wearside when he was 19.
“I still try to come back three or four times a year,” he said. “I like the restaurant D’Acqua, in the city centre. I always go there for my lunch.
“I speak to my family all the time. I phoned my sister this morning to tell her we had won the award and she was to pass the message to the rest of the family – they are very proud.”
The dad-of-one studied cookery at South Tyneside College, in Westoe, and started his career as a kitchen porter in Little Italy, Whitburn Road.
“It’s hard work but it’s worth it,” he said.
“Long 11 and 12 hour days, five or six days a week, which is tough going. But the hard work for us at the Lady Helen starts now really, because we have to keep the standard up.
“We are all very pleased with the Michelin star.
“All the team came into the office early to wait for the email to say the winners had been announced and we were thrilled when we found out we had it.
“It’s a great achievement.”