Vacherin’s Nick Smith crowned winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year

In what has been described as the toughest National Chef of the Year event in the competition’s 48-year history, Nick Smith, head chef at Vacherin has been crowned as the winner in a tense virtual awards ceremony this afternoon.

Watched by hundreds of the biggest names in hospitality, as part of Hospitality Week, the event saw the streaming of the final which took place at Le Cordon Bleu earlier this month. Viewers saw emotion, passion, blood, sweat and tears from the ten finalists who have shown such resilience and determination in the face of hospitality’s toughest era.  

Nick served up a starter of Gilthead 'gazpacho' Heirloom tomato & cucumber, a main course of Romney Marsh lamb, roe ravigote, fennel, samphire and aster and for dessert Sweet Eve strawberry split, clotted cream, lemon and mint. His dishes truly stood out to Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth who was supported by Clare Smyth, Claude Bosi, Graham Hornigold and former winners, Frederick Forster, Russell Bateman and Kuba Winkowski in making this important decision.

Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle finished in second, achieving a top three position for the third year running, with April-Lily Partridge taking third place. April-Lily has made history by being the highest female finisher in almost 50 years.  

Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth said: “It is a real honour to be chair of judges and crown Nick Smith as the winner. When I took on this role, I could never have imagined chefs would be facing the extreme challenges this pandemic has brought. It’s hit our industry hard, but the fact these chefs put themselves forward to compete, despite such uncertainty in their professional and personal lives, is so inspiring. I loved the second stage where chefs had to sum themselves up in a few bites as this gave us an insight into the chefs’ characters too. Winning NCOTY is about more than cooking delicious food, it’s about being an ambassador for your industry and supporting others. We need winners like Nick to show the world what an amazing industry hospitality is, to encourage others to want to be chefs and to incentivise people to work hard to achieve their own personal dreams. Nick’s attention to detail when cooking and the passion he has shown throughout this competition has been incredible. You could see how much this title means to him and he is a really deserving winner.”

David Mulcahy added: “There was never any doubt that National Chef of the Year would go ahead this year; we just needed to work out how we could make it happen with so many restrictions. Hospitality has been on a real rollercoaster over the last few months, we have been catapulted through food shortages and businesses closing and we’ve seen families affected. None of us knew where we were going to end up. But through all of this we still have to battle on and keep going. We took the competition as our responsibility to help those chefs who needed a focus, a distraction and something to fill their time when life felt empty. When everything else was taken out of chefs’ control, NCOTY has given them something to think about and work towards. It’s been an awful but very special year for the competition and Nick is a remarkable winner. He’s remained incredibly positive, focused on his family and done what he needed to do to help him get through this. We are delighted to welcome Nick to that long list of winners and have no doubt he’s going to thrive as the National Chef of the Year in 2021.”

Knorr® Professional is the headline partner of National Chef of the Year and Alex Hall, Executive Chef UK & Ireland, said: “Knorr® Professional is a proud and long standing sponsor of National Chef of the Year and, under the most unique of circumstances this year, it’s once again been fantastic to be involved in the UK’s most prestigious cooking competition. This year’s competition criteria shone a spotlight on something we’re hugely passionate about as a business: the need for greater biodiversity in cooking. We are championing this with the Future 50 Foods – a Knorr initiative in partnership with the WWF. The finalists all had to incorporate at least one of the 50 most sustainable ingredients into their menus and we saw brilliant variety and creativity in doing so from all the competitors. By cooking with more sustainable ingredients, these chefs are leading the way in influencing how future generations of chefs cook, for a better food future.”

As the winner of National Chef of the Year, Nick not only takes the title and winners medal but he also wins the opportunity to create his own digital recipe book or a have a media training session with opportunities to raise his profile up to the value of £7,500 working with Knorr® Professional and Unilever Food Solutions. Continental Chef Supplies (CCS) and Valrhona have collaborated to offer a stunning prize trip. Along with the top two contestants from last year's National Chef of the Year competition, Nick will be taken away in 2021, this trip will involve exquisite food in one of the world's top restaurants, stunning scenery and a chance to delve deeper into the history of our industry than ever before. Nick will also receive an exclusively designed winners plate framed together with his winner’s medal and £500 worth of Churchill products and a bespoke knife courtesy of Savernake Knives.

For 2020 a new award has been announced which is the Best Pastry Award sponsored by Valrhona. This was chosen by Paul Ainsworth, Graham Hornigold and Kuba Winkowski and awarded to Nick Smith for his Sweet Eve strawberry split, clotted cream, lemon and mint.

NCOTY is run in partnership with Knorr® Professional and is supported by Les Vergers Boiron, CCS, Churchill, Direct Seafood, Evolve Recruitment, HIT Training, OpenTable, Santa Maria, UNOX, Valrhona, Winterhalter and WearerTech. It was hosted at Le Cordon Bleu London and featured as part of Hospitality Week.

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.

Sustainability at the heart of Young National Chef of the Year as Edwin takes the crown

Edwin Kuk, junior sous chef at The Art School Restaurant in Liverpool has been revealed as the new title holder of the Young National Chef of the Year in a thrilling virtual awards ceremony this afternoon. This followed yesterday’s electrifying screening of the cook-off which took place at Le Cordon Bleu earlier this month.

Edwin served up a starter of velouté of Wirral watercress and spinach with ravioli of organic Colston Basset cheese, walnut, Granny Smith apple and pickled celery. His main course was steamed loin of Norwegian cod wrapped in prawn mousse and served with beluga lentils, edamame beans, lotus root and Asian broth. A dessert of cinnamon Pain Perdu, lemon verbena yoghurt ice cream with caramelised damsons, white chocolate and pistachio completed his winning menu.

Eden Allsworth, demi chef de partie at Cliveden Hotel took the runner-up spot with Harry Paynter-Roberts, commis chef at Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms taking third place.

The focus for this year’s competition was sustainability with the chefs having to incorporate ingredients from the Knorr Future 50 Foods list. The initiative in partnership with the WWF highlights how we are using too many of the same ingredients and our planet can’t keep up. Not only is the Future 50 Foods list designed to highlight ingredients that will help deliver a sustainable future, but these ingredients have also been chosen for their positive nutritional credentials.

Chair of judges, Hrishikesh Desai, executive chef at The Gilpin Hotel and Lake House in Windermere said: “These finalists are the upcoming stars of our industry and we wanted them to be the catalyst for change and inspire their colleagues and peers. By taking the Future 50 Foods ingredients you can create responsibly sourced and biodiverse dishes for the future. Ensuring that this competition could still go ahead has been an important project for me over the last few months as I know giving positivity, hope and focus to chefs is more important than ever. We had to tweak how we selected the finalists, but we invited a strong group of chefs who have already had success in other competitions; this led to an incredible final. On the day, Edwin’s dishes wowed all the judges and he was a very strong winner. He really understood how to create a balanced three course meal which was absolutely packed with flavours.”

Knorr® Professional is the headline partner of Young National Chef of the Year and Alex Hall, executive chef UK & Ireland added: “It’s been inspiring to see how these young chefs have risen to the challenge set out by Hrishikesh and created delicious, sustainable dishes. At the YNCOTY mentor meeting last month, we talked about this initiative and how these chefs could lead the way in making real change. By switching overused and over-cultivated ingredients for more biodiverse alternatives, chefs can begin to influence the way consumers eat and how future generations of chefs cook, for a better food future.”

Organiser of YNCOTY and Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulcahy said: “This was the most diverse group of chefs we’ve ever had in this competition and that made for an extremely interesting final with all chefs bringing their own style and experiences to the table. These chefs had to overcome the toughest challenges and restrictions to compete in this event, but all remained enthusiastic, well-prepared and determined to impress the judges. As we invite people to compete in this event, the Craft Guild of Chefs is always on the lookout for the next big name to join the list of winners. All the finalists have bright futures ahead of them and we can’t wait to see where this experience takes them next.”

As well as the title of Young National Chef of the Year 2021, Edwin wins the opportunity to grow professionally via a work development or trial session in a Michelin starred restaurant, courtesy of Knorr® Professional. He will also join Michel Roux Jr for the culinary trip of a lifetime to Norway, in conjunction with Seafood from Norway. Edwin will have the opportunity to cook a signature seafood menu at a high-level Seafood from Norway luncheon for press, chefs and industry members, co-hosted by Michel Roux Jr. Edwin will also receive a £500 voucher to spend within the CCS range. As well as a product prize of £250 and a framed presentation plate, Churchill will be taking him to a European city for a gastronomic experience trip. A bespoke knife will also be made thanks to Savernake Knives.

Young National Chef of the Year is run in partnership with Knorr® Professional in association with CCS, Churchill, Seafoods From Norway and Quorn. It was hosted at Le Cordon Bleu London and featured as part of Hospitality Week.

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.

Who will take the title in the toughest culinary battle of National Chef of the Year history?

The Craft Guild of Chefs has not let COVID-19 stop them finding ten truly talented chefs to make the National Chef of the Year final this year. Significant changes were made to the competition to ensure that despite the pandemic, chefs had the opportunity to win the UK’s most sought-after culinary title. After 40 chefs were selected last month, the judges have now whittled them down to just ten for a cook-off at Le Cordon Bleu, London next month. 

The ten chefs making the final are:

  • Derek Johnstone, head chef, Borthwick Castle, East Lothian
  • Fraser Bruce, head chef, Fraser Bruce @ The Fish Shed, St Ives
  • Nathan Cornwell, head chef, The Barn at Moor Hall, Ormskirk
  • Sarah-Jasmina Moussabih, head chef, Finnish Embassy, London
  • Marcin Pomierny, head chef, The Maids Head Hotel Limited, Norwich
  • April Lily Partridge, chef, The Ledbury, London
  • Nick Smith, head chef, Vacherin / Ashurst, London
  • Dominic South, head chef, Corinthia Hotel, London
  • Ben Drake, senior sous chef, The Elephant by Simon Hulstone, Torquay
  • Thomas Swaby, senior sous chef, Roux At Parliament Square, London

With the semi-final cook-offs unable to take place this year, the finalists were selected by taking into consideration the marks from both the entry stage and the dishes which summed them up in just two to three bites. Both rounds of the competition were judged by a separate panel of judges to make sure the rigorous judging process which NCOTY is famous for remained throughout 2020. With guidance and advice from some of the most respected chefs in the industry, the final decision on who went through was made by Chair of Judges Paul Ainsworth and organiser of the competition, David Mulcahy.

To take the title next month, chefs will have to impress Paul Ainsworth, chef patron at Paul Ainsworth Collection, Clare Smyth MBE, chef patron at Core by Clare Smyth, Niall Keating, executive chef at Whatley Manor and Claude Bosi from Bibendum Restaurant in Chelsea.

Despite restrictions, the industry will still be able to watch the cream of chef talent battle it out for this career-changing title. The actual cook-off takes place on the 7th September at Le Cordon Bleu but the format for the final has been reinvented with the streaming of an hour-long show during Hospitality Week that offers insights into how chefs have navigated this challenging year.

Organiser of the competition, David Mulcahy, said: “There is no doubt that finding a way to make sure the National Chef of the Year competition could still go ahead has been challenging. But as organisers, we have always remained determined to ensure the competition’s heritage could be maintained and that the industry had a positive success story to come out of this. Chefs have faced some real battles along the way, even to put an entry in, but we have seen huge resilience, determination and passion from these chefs to turn adversity into positivity. Whilst we have had to tweak how the final is run, many things remain the same. We have ten brilliant chefs cooking for the best judges in the industry and what a special winner they are going to find. I really hope that on the 30th September, chefs in kitchens across the UK tune in to support the competitors and watch the final and the live announcement. There has never been a more important time for the industry to come together in this way and show everyone how much talent our culinary scene has to offer.”

Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth added “My decision to ask the chefs to create a dish that summed them up in just a few simple bites was to help me learn more about the chefs and their style of cooking. I wanted to see great plates of food that showed skill, creativity and innovation but also each chef’s passion and determination to take the top spot. This additional round gave us so much insight and inspiration to help us find that all important top ten. We also considered the scores they received in the first round as ultimately it is those three dishes that we will be tasting in the final. I’m confident we have an amazing line-up of finalists from some incredible establishments and businesses. I can’t wait to taste the dishes in a few weeks’ time as ultimately that’s what this competition is all about.”

Make sure you are supporting the chefs in the final by joining the Craft Guild of Chefs for the live streaming  at 1pm on Wednesday 30th September followed by the big reveal of the winner at 2.30pm. Look out for updates on www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk and the Craft Guild of Chefs social media channels.

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 winners, 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.

The show goes on for 40 National Chef of the Year chefs

Despite the challenging situation the world has found itself in, the Craft Guild of Chefs has confirmed that its National Chef of the Year competition will still go ahead this year as it reveals who has made it through to the next stage. Changes were made to the online entry process so that chefs had the opportunity to design menus, cook dishes and take photography during lockdown.

As the semi-final stage won’t be able to take place in the usual way, 40 chefs have been selected to go through to the second stage. Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth has tasked the competitors with creating a dish that sums them up in just a few bites. They will then create a short video showcasing that dish and answer four supplementary questions. Judges will then whittle the chefs down to a final ten, who will cook up their original menu in the final.

The news on whether a chef has made the second stage has been revealed in a new and exciting way this year. Throughout the day today, personalised CCS (Continental Chef Supplies) chef jackets have been arriving in the homes or workplaces of all 40 chefs with a note asking them to share the news online as their gift arrives. Churchill has also sent dishes as a congratulations gift and all the china can be used in the next stage of the competition. You can see the pictures of the finalists proudly wearing their customised chef jackets by searching #NCOTY on Twitter and Instagram.

The chefs invited to compete in the next stage are:

  • Mark Austin, executive chef, Northwood HQ, Aramark
  • Andy Bowler, sous chef, Petrus
  • Fraser Bruce, head chef, Fraser Bruce @ The Fish Shed
  • Nathan Cornwell, head chef, The Barn at Moor Hall
  • Paul Croasdale , head chef, Stargazzy Inn
  • David Davey-Smith, SNCO Chef, Royal Air Force
  • Tristan Downes, head chef, Craft London
  • Ben Drake, senior sous chef, The Elephant by Simon Hulstone
  • Nico Fitzgerald , head chef, London Stock
  • Alex Greene, sous chef, Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa
  • Daniel Griffiths, sous chef, Portmeirion Hotel
  • Elliot Hill, head chef, Panoramic 34
  • Asen Ibrov, head chef, Silver Spoon
  • Matthew John, chef patron, The Waggon Inn
  • Derek Johnstone, head chef, Borthwick Castle
  • Daniel Jones, head chef, JT3
  • Martin Lee, head chef, Hartwell House Hotel
  • Rob Marshall, freelance chef
  • Caroline Martins, chef patron, Sao Paulo Group Ltd
  • David Millar, head chef, CH&CO
  • Graham Mitchell, head chef, The Newmachar Hotel
  • Sarah-Jasmina Moussabih, head chef, Finnish Embassy, London
  • Saurav Nath, development chef, JKS Restaurants
  • Christopher Niven, executive chef
  • Andonis Paraskevas, chef/consultant
  • April Lily Partridge, chef, The Ledbury
  • Elisabeth Passedat, head chef, The Cleveland Arms
  • Marcin Pomierny, head chef, The Maids Head Hotel Limited
  • Matt Ramsdale , head chef, The Chester Grosvenor
  • Stefan Sewell, team captain, Combined Service Culinary Arts Team
  • Christos Siomadis, executive chef, Roseate House Hotel London
  • Nick Smith, head chef, Vacherin / Ashurst
  • Dominic South, head chef, Corinthia Hotel
  • Lewis Spencer, sous chef, Davies and Brook
  • Thomas Swaby, senior sous chef, Roux at Parliament Square
  • Nat Tallents, executive chef, Fosters @ The Box Plymouth
  • Simon Webb, freelance chef
  • Fergus Wilford, sous chef, Corinthia Hotel
  • Danny Young, senior sous chef, Northcote
  • Tim Zekki, chef proprietor, Duende

From this list, ten finalists will be selected to compete in a cook-off at Le Cordon Bleu on Monday 7th September. This will be filmed and played out as part of the new Hospitality Week with the winner being revealed live on Wednesday, 30th September, 2020.

Reflecting back on the last few months, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser, David Mulcahy said: “Back in March, we had to make the difficult decision of whether to continue with the competition this year or postpone it. We spoke with our chair of judges, sponsors and other organisers and listened to the views of chefs who were contacting us via social media and email. There was a real appetite for the competition to continue as it gave chefs hope and positivity during such a challenging time. The level of entry we have received this year is incredible and whoever wins in these circumstances is going to be a truly special person. This year’s winner will have turned adversity into positivity and when asked what they did during the coronavirus crisis will be able to say they won the National Chef of the Year title. Thank you to all our sponsors and everyone who entered as you have helped ensure this culinary competition continues to lead the way in the UK and maintain its 48-year history.”

Chair of judges and Michelin starred restaurateur, Paul Ainsworth added: “This is my first year judging the first stage of NCOTY and many chefs were on the money in hitting the brief they were set. Seeing the huge variety of ways the entrants put their own interpretation on this task was inspiring and there are going to be some amazing dishes served up to us in September. I am already looking forward to watching the videos in the next round and seeing how chefs sum themselves up in just a few tasty bites. Be yourself, cook from the heart and be proud of what you have achieved to get to this stage.”

The National Chef of the Year competition is run in partnership with Knorr Professional and is supported by Boiron Freres, CCS, Churchill, Direct Seafood, Evolve Recruitment, HIT Training, OpenTable, Santa Maria, UNOX, Valrhona, 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.

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