Craft Guild of Chefs reveals new plans for National Chef of the Year

With the hospitality industry facing its most challenging time with the Coronavirus crisis the organisers of National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure this year’s competition will still go ahead.

Despite the unprecedented times, there has been so much support for NCOTY, with chefs still keen to enter, despite facing uncertainty around their daily lives. The Guild has heard stories about the online entry stage providing inspiration and hope to chefs which has made them even more determined to ensure that the competition continues this year. However, for the safety of chefs, suppliers, judges, students and supporters some changes will need to be made.

Firstly, the online entry deadline has been extended to Monday 15th June to give chefs plenty of time to create their menus and access ingredients. From the entries received at that point, the judges, including Chair of Judges, Paul Ainsworth will whittle those down to the highest scoring 40 chefs.

With so much uncertainty around the length of the national lockdown and colleges, restaurants and workplaces being closed, it won’t be possible for the usual semi-final stage to take place. This means shortlisted chefs will go through to a new secondary round where they will be asked to present a small signature dish of their choice via a short video. This dish should reflect their personality and tell a story that sums up the chef in a couple of bites. The dish may be a memory that chefs draw from, a style of cuisine or reflect their own heritage, it could be based on a family memory or include their ‘hero’ ingredients. The choice is down to each chef as the judges want to see their creativity.

Additionally, as part of this second stage, chefs will be sent four supplementary questions to answer briefly and submit online. These questions will ask for further information on their initial three course menu and it is their opportunity to share more details on their dishes. In August, the judges will select their top ten chefs, based on everything they have seen, to take through to the final.


At The Restaurant Show, the final ten competitors will be invited to serve-up their original three course menu using Paul Ainsworth’s brief. This will ensure that efforts at the entry stages are not lost and judges will have the opportunity to sample each chef’s hard work. However, there may be some additional ‘must use’ ingredients added which will be shared once all finalists are announced.

To support chefs over the coming months, the Craft Guild of Chefs will be running a series of webinars with judges, sponsors and former winners, with the aim of inspiring chefs during this time. Webinars will include advice on keeping motivated, taking good food photography, how to record videos on a mobile phone as well as how to create a standout online entry. A list of planned webinars will be added to the National Chef of the Year website, emailed to everyone registered and promoted via the Guild’s social media channels.


To help chefs understand this new process for the competition, the Craft Guild of Chefs has created a FAQs document on its website at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk. Chefs can also email any additional questions to the organisers via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

David Mulcahy, organiser of the competition and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs said: “We want to ensure every chef has a fair opportunity to take one of the ten places at The Restaurant Show and that the industry really has something to celebrate later this year. Whilst many chefs aren’t currently able to work, we want to help them use the coming months to learn and be inspired by other chefs, suppliers, judges and industry leaders. This allows them to be more ready than ever to get back to business and take their careers to the next level as soon they can. This year, NCOTY isn’t just about winning a title, it’s about us inspiring chefs and giving them hope, strength and positivity during the most challenging time of their careers.”

Chair of Judges, Paul Ainsworth added: “My focus on finding the most talented chefs in the UK hasn’t stopped throughout this crisis and I’ve had many calls with David over the last few weeks to make sure we can still hold a fantastic final at the end of September. Whilst the UK and hospitality industry faces continued uncertainty, one thing is for sure. Our industry is resilient, and chefs will come back from this; probably stronger than ever. People are going to enjoy eating out more than they have done after this experience and at that time we’ll be ready to showcase the best chefs the UK has to offer. However, you must be in it to win it so use this time wisely and make sure you submit the best menu you possibly can. The judges are already looking forward to tasting ten of them in the final.”

Entries should be completed on the NCOTY website at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk. Chefs should register asap to receive the latest competition updates and list of upcoming webinars.


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, Direct Seafood, HIT Training, Ritter Courivaud Ltd, Boiron Freres, OpenTable, Unox, CCS, Wearertech and Winterhalter. ENDS Issued on behalf of the Craft Guild of Chefs by Digital Blonde Ltd. For more information about the event or to arrange interviews with candidates, judges or organisers please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 07967 823854.

Craft Guild of Chefs

The Craft Guild of Chefs is the largest UK chefs’ association with members worldwide in foodservice and hospitality, from students and trainees to top management working everywhere from Michelin starred restaurants to school catering divisions.

Extended deadline for National Chef of the Year

In these challenging times, many chefs have been asking us what will be happening to National Chef of the Year and the upcoming deadline. Our social media team has also advised us there has been some tweets with chefs confirming they are using this time to work on NCOTY entries and this has given them some positivity.

With the final taking place until the autumn, we are working hard behind the scenes to put plans in place to ensure we have a fantastic final at The Restaurant Show. However, we recognise that at the moment there is difficulty in getting hold of some ingredients and equipment which you may need to complete your entry. We want as many chefs as possible to have the opportunity to enter NCOTY and therefore have extended the deadline until Monday 15th June. The brief will remain the same and over the coming weeks we will share another update about how the next stage of the competition will work. In the meantime, here’s the latest update from organiser, David Mulcahy >>

Make sure you are following the Craft Guild of Chefs social media channels over the coming weeks as they will be sharing some advice and videos from former competitors, judges and current chair, Paul Ainsworth. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Dear chefs, partners and supporters of National and Young National Chef of the Year   

In these extremely challenging times we are very conscious of some of the early impacts on our industry and the devastating effects on many of our industry colleagues and friends.

Our priorities are changing on a daily basis as we deal with any number of issues where we are making difficult decisions which affect us all as well as our families and friends.

In the face of these challenges we are already witnessing some amazing gestures of kindness and goodwill, coming together as a community and supporting each other at this time.

With many events being delayed or cancelled our focus is on making sure that we do all in our power to assist and support those in the most need. 

Being a resilient and resourceful industry we will come through this and look to the future.

In terms of National and Young National Chef of the Year, I am conscious that there have been a number of queries regarding any changes to dates and plans for this year’s competition programme. NCOTY has been running for almost 50 Years and we are proud of the legacy and how important it is to chefs across the UK and beyond. Given the situation today and level of uncertainty for the coming weeks and months, we will do everything to be as flexible as possible regarding dates and any changes necessary.

Please be assured we have your interests at heart and will publish changes as they happen. In the meantime please look out for updates, stay safe and look out for each other.

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

Chefs from all sectors across the UK have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of head chef, Steve Groves from Roux at Parliament Square as entries are now open for the National Chef of the Year competition.

The new Chair of judges and Michelin starred restaurateur, 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 very best of seasonal summer ingredients.

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 showstopping 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.  

It is recommended that chefs register for a National Chef of the Year account at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk straight away to read the full brief. They will then be able to update the entry and save it as they add more to it over the coming weeks. Chefs have until Friday, 3rd April, to submit their final entry and a shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on Friday 15th May. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on Monday 15th June, and at Westminster Kingsway in London on Monday 22nd June. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday, 29th September 2020.

The current National Chef of the Year, Steve Groves said: “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.”

As he prepares to take on his first head judge role for National Chef of the Year, Paul Ainsworth added: “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.”

The National Chef of the Year competition is open to chefs who are 26 years or older as of 29th September 2020. Competitors may come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors and they may be working in the UK or overseas.

Organiser of NCOTY and Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulcahy said: “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.

 

Issued on behalf of the Craft Guild of Chefs by Digital Blonde Ltd. For more information about the event or to arrange interviews with candidates, judges or organisers please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 07967 823854.

Craft Guild of Chefs

The Craft Guild of Chefs is the largest UK chefs’ association with members worldwide in foodservice and hospitality, from students and trainees to top management working everywhere from Michelin starred restaurants to school catering divisions.

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