The family of a young chef who died in a car crash have paid tribute to a man who “loved to cook and was always laughing”.
Zach Whittall, 21, was on his way home from work at the Olive Brach in Clipsham on Tuesday night when the car he was travelling crashed, leaving the road and hitting a tree.
Emergency services were called but Zach was pronounced dead at the scene.
His family, from Great Oxendon, Northamptonshire, paid tribute on Wednesday. Mother Cathy said: “Zachary was our eldest son and was a talented chef. For the last year he has worked as an integral part of the team at the Olive Branch, he loved to cook and was always laughing. For the first time in his career, he felt valued and part of a team.
“We are absolutely devastated by what has happened. Suddenly a family of five has been reduced to just four. Zach was in the car with his best friend Luke on the way home to his girlfriend Leanne in Stocken Hall, just two miles away.
“We are extremely proud of Zach and what he has achieved in his career. Myself, Peter his dad, Connor and Angus his brothers are trying to deal with what has happened.
“You never imagine you will outlive your own children.”
Zach joined the team at the award-winning Olive Branch in August last year. The restaurant’s co-owner Ben Jones said: “Zach was a hardworking, dedicated and passionate young chef, he was full of smiles, positive and always had a joke to tell. He put 100 per cent into his work and was a real team player.
“He was an incredibly popular member of the Olive Branch family, he will be greatly missed by us all.”
The Olive Branch was The Good Pub Guide’s Pub of the Year for 2014 and has been featured in the Michelin Guide every year since 2002.
The crash happened in Clipsham Road, Stretton, at 11pm on Tuesday. The black Vauxhall Corsa in which Zach was a passenger and a light grey Vauxhall Astra were driving in the same direction before the Corsa left the road and hit a tree.
The driver of the Corsa suffered serious injuries and was taken to Peterborough City Hospital, where he remains in s stable condition.
A 24-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the crash. Det Con 1761 Pete Davies, investigating, said: “Both vehicles were travelling along Clipsham Road towards Stretton when the Corsa left the road and collided with a tree.
“We would like to speak to anyone who was travelling along this road yesterday evening to contact us if they saw either vehicle beforehand or witnessed the actual collision.”
Witnesses should call 101 quoting incident 689 of August 19.