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Northern Ireland's largest and most prestigious chef competition, the IFEX Salon attracts entries from hundreds of chefs in Northern Ireland with over 30 classes and competitions taking place.

Students from Ulster University's Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management programmes and staff from Academy Restaurant displayed their skills, enthusiasm, and dedication throughout the three-day exhibition, winning 11 awards in an array of categories, including Silver in the Junior Seafood Chef of the Year category and Gold in the NI Cook and Serve Competition, a highlight of the annual series.

The success at the IFEX Salon comes after Academy Restaurant became the first eatery in the UK and Ireland to achieve the prestigious Green Key certificate in 2023 for its commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment through the use of seasonal ingredients and sustainable practices.

Relaunched in November 2023, Academy: the Centre for Food, Drink, and Culture is made up of Academy Restaurant, a state-of-the-art commercial restaurant with an educational hub that nurtures the talents of hospitality and culinary arts management students.

Awarded to Ulster University 


  • Sophie McKenzie, Daire Brown, Vyasaprasad Balakrishna, Taniesha Clarke - NI Cook and Serve winners.
  • Sophie Smith - Robotics and Culinary Integration, Plant-Based Chef Challenge
  • Laszlo Olah - Food Photography Competition


  • Millicent Newall - Junior Seafood Chef of the Year
  • 1 Rocks - Senior Duck


  • Millicent Newall - Junior Duck
  • Lewis Rogers - Senior Duck

Professor Ioannis S. Pantelidis, Head of the Department of Hospitality Tourism and Events Management said:

I am thrilled by the result and so proud of our students and colleagues who took the time and effort to participate in these competitions. I am equally proud of all the students and colleagues who helped support and mentor the winners. These may seem like simple competitions to outsiders but they enable participants to showcase the effects of the key management principles we teach in our courses. Participating in such competitions highlights how our department lives and breathes our university values of Inclusion, Integrity, Collaboration and Enhancing Potential”.

Judged by some of the industry’s most well-respected chefs, the success at IFEX Exhibition's Salon Culinaire Belfast 2024 reinforces Ulster University's commitment to excellence in culinary, hospitality, tourism and events management education, setting a high standard for aspiring industry managers and chefs in the UK and Ireland.

This year during 5 – 8 May, Ulster University will co-host the first Regenerative Hospitality Summit in Transylvania, Romania, putting the spotlight on how regenerative practices within the industry can continue to enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation as a leading food and drink destination. Don't miss your chance to be part of this transformative experience, visit Regenerative Hospitality Summit (

Awarded students

Vyasaprasad Balakrishna - BSc Culinary Arts Management, Year 2

Lewis Rogers- BSc Culinary Arts Management, Year 4

Taniesha Clarke - BSc International Hospitality Management, Year 2

Sophie smith - BSc Culinary Arts Management, Year 2

Millicent Newall - BSc Culinary Arts Management, Year 2

Sophie McKenzie - BSc International Hospitality Management, Year 2

Daire Brown - BSc Culinary Arts Management, Year 2

Photo Caption

Staff and students from Ulster University’s Academy Restaurant and Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events Management celebrate their success at the IFEX Exhibition Salon Culinaire Belfast. Pictured is (Front Row, L-R): Sophie smith, Millicent Newall, Sean Owens, Sophie McKenzie. (Back Row, L-R): Professor Ioannis S Pantelidis, Martin Caldwell, Michael Gillies, Emmett Rocks Chef De Partie, Academy, Daire Brown, Lisa Kennedy.