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6th February 2020

Chefs invited to compete for the National Chef of the Year 2021 title

Written by: Edward Waddell
Chefs from all sectors across the UK have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Steve Groves, as entries are now open for the National Chef of the Year competition.

New chair of judges Paul Ainsworth has collaborated in designing this year’s menu criteria. Competitors are required to produce a creative menu for two guests in two hours, celebrating the best of seasonal summer ingredients. 

Ainsworth said: “When considering the criteria for this year, I wanted to be able to excite and inspire chefs when they saw this brief, and I hope as you are reading it, your mind is already whirring with ideas. 

“My advice is to make the best use of your ingredients, focus on flavour and avoid waste by using by-products. Keep it local, fresh and simple. 

“Over the next few months I am going to be on the hunt for the best chefs and I’d absolutely love to see more females entering, so please help to make this happen by encouraging all chefs to give it a go.”

Chefs must make a starter consisting of three different plates per portion, for two guests all using the core ingredient of fresh Gilt-head bream. Ainsworth wants chefs to think “San Sebastian, modern style tapas”.

Each dish must use bream in a different format and must make the best use of the fish in some way. Judges will focus on how competitors have used by-products in the dish and are looking for entrants to showcase a variety of techniques in their starter. 

For the main course, chefs must create a lamb dish sourced from the UK and Ireland coastline using both a prime and offal cut, suitably garnished. Judges are looking for the best use of accompanying summer vegetables, herbs and coastline flavours to enhance the lamb. 

Competitors may clean, butcher and marinade the lamb elements in advance but prime cooking must be carried out on the day. The sourcing and provenance of the lamb is also important. 

Finally, Paul and his team of judges are looking for a dessert of the competitor’s choice focusing on strawberries and cream. Judges will be searching for the best use of this seasonal classic with ‘flair, innovation and creativity’.

Chefs who want to compete should register for a National Chef of the Year account at: to receive the full brief. Chefs have until 3 April 2020 to submit their final entry and a shortlist of 40 candidates will be revealed on 15 May 2020.

This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on 15 June and at Westminster College on 22 June. Ten chefs will advance to the National Chef of the Year Final, which will take place at The Restaurant Show on 29 September 2020.  

The current National Chef of the Year, Steve Groves, commented: “Winning the National Chef of the Year is an incredible honour and one of my proudest moments. For me, it's the UK's top chef competition and the chefs associated with this event are the shining lights of our industry. The connections I made throughout and since the competition are invaluable and have been a real boost to my career.”

The National Chef of the Year is open to chefs who are 26-years-old or older as of 29 September 2020. Competitors can come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract caterers and the public sector.

David Mulcahy, organiser of NCOTY and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, added: “As we launch another year of competition, we are full of anticipation as we wait to see who will be throwing their chef’s hat into the mix and entering the UK’s most prestigious culinary title. 

“Steve Groves is already proving to be an outstanding winner and former champions such as Kuba Winkowski have become true ambassadors for the competition, so this is about so much more than the cooking on the day. 

“When Paul first told us his ideas for the brief, we knew that this would inspire chefs from across the hospitality industry. So whatever sector you work in, get involved, show us what you’ve got, and you could find you are the National Chef of the Year 2021.”

The National Chef of the Year competition is run in partnership with Knorr Professional and is supported by Churchill China UK Ltd, Mash Purveyors Ltd, Evolve Hospitality Recruitment Ltd, Santa Maria UK Ltd, Valrhona Ltd, Bidvest Fresh Ltd, HIT Training, Ritter Courivaud Ltd, Boiron Freres, OpenTable and Unox.