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Make It: Niall McKenna

Award winning restaurant owner. Head chef.

Fact title Fact data
Best advice?
Ask questions - the more you know, the more information you have, the further up the ladder you're going to get
Biggest achievement?
The apprenticeship programme ran by James Street South - training the next generation of businessmen and entrepreneurs
Key to getting a job in the industry?
Do your homework on the business

James Street South owner and head chef Niall McKenna has been cooking since the age of 15, even moving schools to go to De La Salle in Belfast as it was the only boys school that offered Home Economics. He studied professional cookery at Belfast Metropolitan College between 1987 and 1988.

After studying, he moved to London and spent 12 years training under Michelin-starred chefs such as Nico Ladenis, Gary Rhodes and Marco Pierre White. Back in Belfast he worked at the Porcelain Restaurant, where he managed the hotel kitchens, restaurant and private dining rooms before opening his own restaurant, James Street South in 2003.

It's all about pushing yourself on - what you want and what you want to provide.
Niall McKenna

Niall has gone on to open a number of other award-winning restaurants. In 2010 he appeared on the BBC TV series Great British Menu, where his dessert was served at the series finale banquet and in 2014, he was named Northern Ireland Tourism Hero at the NI Tourism Awards.

Niall is passionate about fostering new talent and in 2014 he set up the James Street South Chef Apprenticeship Programme, which gives hospitality students the chance to learn their skills from some of the best chefs in Northern Ireland. The year-long placement is open to 16-24 year olds and combines on-the-job training with studies at the Belfast Metropolitan College to gain professional qualifications.