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6th February 2019

Craft Guild opens entry for National Chef of the Year 2020

Written by: Katie Imms
Our annual search for the UK’s most up-and-coming chef is under way, as we are excited to announce that entry is now open for the Craft Guild’s National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) contest.

Despite the cold British weather, organisers are focusing on warmer times as competitors are required to produce a creative summer lunch menu for two guests, which must be cooked within two hours.

Menu requirements

  • A hot, ‘Perfect Egg Dish’ starter of the competitor’s choice. It must be perfectly balanced and suitable for a spring/summer menu.
  • A beef main course to include two cuts and two cooking methods. The beef must be sourced from the UK and competitors should indicate the breed of beef, farm sourced from and maturation period.
  • For dessert, judges want a delicious chocolate tart incorporating or garnished with seasonal fruits. Chefs are advised to focus on skills and in creating the perfect pastry, filling, texture and overall execution of dessert.

Created by third-time chair of judges, Gary Jones, executive head chef at Belmond Le Manoir, who said: “Nothing represents nature more than the purity of an egg. It’s also incredibly versatile and an economical ingredient, so practise and development won't cost the earth.

“In terms of the beef task, previously everything has been cooked at speed on the day. This is a good test but panic can set in and the final execution can be compromised.

“I believe we should give chefs the opportunity to prepare one element in their own environments. It will allow more care and attention to detail and the result on the plate will be more precise.

“For dessert, I wanted a task that will test the chefs and give them the opportunity to demonstrate their skill - balancing the pastry, chocolate and fruit elements. These tasks are achievable and familiar, and most chefs will have a good knowledge of them.

“I'm passionate about building skills and seeing our industry becoming ever stronger. We have some brilliant chefs in the UK and NCOTY allows them to demonstrate their creativity and showcase their talent.”

NCOTY is open to chefs aged 24+ as of 1 February 2019 working in the UK or overseas. They can come from all areas of hospitality, including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors.

Competition organiser and Craft Guild vice president, David Mulcahy, commented: “We are delighted to welcome back Gary Jones as the chair of judges.

“Gary has done a fantastic job over the last two years pushing the competitors and judges to raise the bar even higher.

“With Gary’s input, we’ve got an exciting British brief for the chefs this year and we are confident it will be a popular task that will showcase skills, creativity, innovation and culinary talent.

“We see chefs develop both in and out the kitchen from the moment they start working on their entries right through to cooking in the final. Some chefs come back year after year and it’s inspiring to see how much they have developed at every stage.”

To be in with the chance of winning this highly prestigious title, chefs must submit their entry by 22 March with 40 shortlisted semi-finalists to be announced 17 May.

This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College (11 June) and Le Cordon Bleu, London (18 June).

Ten chefs will be selected for the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show 1 October.

Reigning champion Kuba Winkowski shares his experience of NCOTY: “It took me two attempts to win the title of National Chef of the Year and it was absolutely worth the wait.

“Hearing my name called as the champion is something I had dreamt of since I started working in the UK.

“The list of former winners is so impressive and to have my name added to that hall of fame was just the most incredible feeling.

“It’s regarded as the hardest chef competition in the UK but also the most prestigious, and I would encourage any chef to enter. Whatever stage you get to you will develop and grow - not only as a chef, but as a person.”

The National Chef of the Year competition is run in partnership with KNORR and Lockhart Catering Equipment and is supported by British Premium Meats, CCS, Churchill, Direct Seafood, Evolve, HIT Training, Mash, Ritter Courivaud, Santa Maria, UNOX and WearerTech.