The annual search for the UK’s most up and coming chef is under way as the Craft Guild of Chefs opens its entries for The National Chef of the Year (NCOTY).
Despite the cold British weather, the organisers are focusing on warmer times as competitors are required to produce a creative summer lunch menu for two guests, cooked within two hours.
The menu must consist of the ‘Perfect Egg Dish’ starter served hot, of the competitor’s choice. This must be suitable for a spring/summer menu and be perfectly balanced. Judges are looking for 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 the dessert, chefs must create a delicious chocolate tart incorporating or garnished with seasonal fruits. Chefs are advised to focus on skills, creating the perfect pastry, filling, texture and overall execution of dessert.
The brief was created by Gary Jones, executive head chef at Belmond Le Manoir, who was invited to return as Chair of judges for a third year. He said, “Nothing represents nature more than the purity of an egg, it’s also incredibly versatile, as well as 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, 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.”
The National Chef of the Year is open to chefs who are 24 years or older as of February 1st, 2019. Competitors may come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors. Competitors may be working in the UK or overseas.
Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of NCOTY, David Mulcahy said, “We are delighted to welcome back Gary Jones as the chair of judges. Gary has done a fantastic job over the last two years and pushed the competitors and judges to raise the bar even higher.
'With Gary’s input, we’ve got an exciting British brief for the chefs to start working on 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 their skills at every stage.”
Chefs have until Friday, 22 March, to submit their entry and a shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on 17 May. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on Tuesday, 11 June, and at Le Cordon Bleu in London on Tuesday, 18th June. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday, 1 October 2019.
Kuba Winkowski (pictured), the current title holder who knows what it takes to impress the judges, added, “It took me two attempts to win the title of The 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.