NCOTY challenges entrants to create menu that tells their story of the 2020 pandemic through food
Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth has unveiled his brief to an audience of ambitious, determined and talented chefs on a webinar. Joined by culinary icons Vivek Singh, Paul Askew and Lisa Goodwin-Allen as well as competition organiser, David Mulcahy, they also addressed what lies ahead for the hospitality industry and what chefs can learn from this experience to come back stronger than ever.
Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and culinary ambassador at Sodexo UK and Ireland, David Mulcahy said: “Whilst the NCOTY competition’s focus is very much about moving forward, this year’s brief encourages chefs to reflect on the last year and tell their own personal story through food. There is no doubt the Covid-19 pandemic will be remembered in history for generations to come and we want to capture those memories via three delicious dishes.”
To enter this year's NCOTY competition, visit: https://nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk/live/en/page/enter.
This year’s panel of Michelin-starred judges want to learn about each chef and capture the essence of what the last year has meant for them through their menus. Each course has its own theme taking into account a different element of what every chef has experienced.
The last year has increased interest in where food comes from and sustainability is now more important and urgent than ever. This will be reflected in a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the KNORR® Future 50 Foods list. These ingredients have been identified with the support of WWF as having a positive impact on the environment, by improving the diversity of the crops we consume as well having excellent nutritional credentials.
Paul Ainsworth remembers a time in March 2020 when he watched fishermen come into Padstow with a boat full of stock that couldn’t be used, whilst also hearing from his butcher about the financial challenges they faced as it was announced restaurants should close. Chefs acknowledge the importance of supporting their suppliers and the main course should incorporate both fish and meat of the competitor’s choice. It must reflect their passion for helping high quality, local, British producers.
Finally, the dessert must explore those memories from the start of the pandemic; when food items were sparse, and families came together to invigorate a love of cooking and baking using raw ingredients. NCOTY judges are looking for a twist on some of those great British classics that bring a sense of comfort during difficult times. The menus the chefs create for the entry process will be what they serve up for judges if they make it to the final, so it needs to be show-stopping and taste incredible.
From all the entries received by Monday 31st May, the judges will whittle them down to just 40 chefs who will then be invited to the second stage. Chefs who make it through will be asked to create a further dish in a bid to battle for one of just ten sought-after places in the final. The cook-off will take place in London in September with the chefs being part of a documentary which will be aired as part of an exclusive red carpet VIP premiere for competitors, judges, ambassadors, sponsors and the media as the next winner of this impressive title is revealed.
Chair of judges Paul Ainsworth said: “When looking at the competition this year, we discussed the highs of the 2020 event and explored which elements we could keep and develop to ensure NCOTY stays relevant and exciting. This year the brief gives chefs more freedom than ever to create a menu that is personal to them, to their love of food and their style of cooking.
“I’m a huge believer in telling a story through food and can’t wait to see the creativity on display as these menus come in and learning about the chefs’ personalities through their food. The winning menu is one I want to see go down in history as a true reflection of the part food has played in the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The winner will not only receive the most sought-after culinary award in the UK but they will take home a host of impressive prizes including culinary experiences, equipment and trips of a lifetime.
Alex Hall, executive chef at Unilever Food Solutions added: “Knorr Professional is a long-standing partner of the competition and each year we’re honoured to be able to celebrate the very best talent our industry has to offer. The competition is a catalyst for the future talent of the industry and year on year the quality of food and competitiveness continues to grow.
“Recognising the speed at which food is evolving and knowing that chefs can truly be ambassadors for change this year, we’re delighted that the Guild has embraced our quest to cook for a more sustainable future with a focus on the Future 50 Food report.
“The chefs who participate will be able to demonstrate how putting plants at the centre-of-plate can still deliver the quality and value that their customer expect, whilst showcasing their skills in order to cook not only for the title but for a sustainable food future.”
NCOTY is run in partnership with KNORR and supported by CCS and Churchill.