Gary Jones reveals what the judges will be looking for in National Chef of the Year

As the search for a new National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) gets underway, the Craft Guild of Chefs is proud to announce its new Chair of Judges for 2017. Gary Jones, head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons takes over the helm from Clare Smyth MBE who has led the judging panel for the last two years.

The competition is famed for its prestigious panel of judges and taking on his first NCOTY Chair duty, Gary reveals his advice for those hoping to wow the judges with a winning menu.

Gary Jones’ top tips for entrants

  1. Allow plenty of time to enter. We hear of so many chefs who would love to win this title but they get immersed in their day job which leaves little time before or after shifts to spare. However, NCOTY has a two-month entry window to ensure chefs have the time to develop their dishes, test them out, and devise a winning menu. So, get cracking with your entry as soon as you can.
  2. Absorb the brief. We include a lot of detail so make sure you read every aspect of it. This includes in-depth entry guidelines which show the criteria judges will be scoring against from skills to wastage and sourcing to seasonality. When you have finished your menu, look back at the brief and double check it. Online entries are shown anonymously to the judges so even the best chefs in the UK could miss out on a semi-final spot if they have missed a key element of the brief.
  3. Ask for advice from your colleagues. When you have a menu idea, talk to other chefs about it to get feedback. Be prepared to tweak the menu based on responses so you are 100% confident you have considered everything by the time you click the submit button. Most importantly taste it, does it work as a dish, as a flavour combination, as an eating experience? Has it got the wow factor?
  4. Keep it simple. If you earn your place in the next stage of the competition you must cook your menu in just two hours under the watchful and critical eyes of some of the biggest names in our industry. This will be in a hectic, unfamiliar kitchen at Le Cordon Bleu or Sheffield College so make sure your menu can be achieved within the time-frame. 
  5. Focus on culinary skills. The judges at every stage of the competition will be placing skills right at the top of their scoring agenda. When planning your menu, make sure that you demonstrate your skill whilst still producing a deliciously fresh and flavoursome plate of food. Brilliant simplicity is what the judges will be looking for.

To enter National Chef of the Year in 2017, chefs need to produce a creative menu for two guests to be served within two hours. The menu must consist of a vegetarian based starter, a duck and cherry combination main course and a classic tart as a dessert. Competitors will put their own interpretation on each dish with a strong focus on seasonality and sustainable sourcing of ingredients. Full details of the brief and an online entry form can be found at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk

Speaking about his new role, Gary Jones said “I am delighted to be the Chair of judges for NCOTY. It’s a competition that has been won by so many talented chefs, has an incredible panel of judges, and receives fantastic support from media, sponsors and partners. I’ll be working with the Craft Guild of Chefs to find new and exciting ways to drive this event forward, whilst ensuring that culinary skills continue to evolve in the UK.  It’s this focus on skill which makes the NCOTY title so credible, and one that so many chefs across the UK aspire to win.”

After taking the title in 2016, James Devine, adds “I was encouraged to enter NCOTY by my employers and having seen the record of winners, I knew that I wanted my name on it next. As soon as the entry process started I threw myself into the competition and used every spare minute I had to ensure that my name was called out as the winner last October. When you look at the calibre of judges at each stage, you know you’ve truly earned your place on that list of only 26 chefs. I’d recommend all chefs give themselves the opportunity to be part of this incredible competition.”

The competition is open to chefs who are 24 years or older on February 1st 2017. Competitors may come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors and may be working in the UK or overseas.

Chefs have until Friday, 31st March, to submit their entry and a shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on 19th May. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on Tuesday, 6th June, and at Le Cordon Bleu in London on Tuesday, 20th June. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday, 3rd October.

The National Chef of the Year competition is run in partnership with KNORR, Lockhart Catering Equipment and SousVide Tools. It is supported by British Premium Meats, Cacao Barry, CCS, Churchill, Direct Seafood, Evolve, Mash, OpenTable and Ritter Courivaud. 

Craft Guild of Chefs begins its pursuit to find the UK’s top chef

Just four months after crowning James Devine as the winner of National Chef of the Year (NCOTY), the search to find the next champion gets underway. NCOTY is regarded as the toughest but most prestigious culinary challenge in the UK, with chefs competing in a series of exciting rounds, culminating in a live final at The Restaurant Show. Every stage is completed under the watchful eyes of some of the most well-respected chefs in the world. 

The competition is famed for its long list of illustrious winners and experienced panel of judges with 2017 being no exception. Gary Jones, head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons has been revealed as the new Chair of Judges, taking over from Clare Smyth MBE.

David Mulcahy, Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of NCOTY said “Gary has been involved with the competition for many years and we are thrilled that he is overseeing the judging panel. This competition moves up a gear every single year and with Gary at the helm we are confident this will continue. The NCOTY committee has created an interesting brief for the online entry stage and we’re looking forward to seeing how different chefs interpret it. Whatever stage you get to in this competition, you will learn from the experience and take away new ideas that will help you develop as a chef.”

To enter National Chef of the Year in 2017, chefs need to produce a creative menu for two guests to be served within two hours. The menu must consist of a vegetarian based starter, a duck and cherry combination main course and a classic tart as a dessert. Competitors will put their own interpretation on each dish with a strong focus on seasonality and sustainable sourcing of ingredients. Full details of the brief and an online entry form can be found at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk

Speaking about his new role, Gary Jones stated: “I am delighted to be the Chair of Judges for NCOTY. It’s a competition that has been won by so many talented chefs, has an incredible panel of judges, and receives fantastic support from media, sponsors and partners. I’ll be working with the Craft Guild of Chefs to find new and exciting ways to drive this event forward, whilst ensuring that culinary skills continue to evolve in the UK.  It’s this focus on skill which makes the NCOTY title so credible, and one that so many chefs across the UK aspire to win.”

The competition is open to chefs who are 24 years or older on February 1st 2017. Competitors may come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors and may be working in the UK or overseas.

After taking the title in 2016, James Devine, commented: “I was encouraged to enter NCOTY by my employers and having seen the record of winners, I knew that I wanted my name on it next. As soon as the entry process started I threw myself into the competition and used every spare minute I had to ensure that my name was called out as the winner last October. When you look at the calibre of judges at each stage, you know you’ve truly earned your place on that list. I’d recommend all chefs give themselves the opportunity to be part of this competition and enter.”

Chefs have until Friday, 31st March, to submit their entry and a shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on 19th May. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on Tuesday, 6th June, and at Le Cordon Bleu in London on Tuesday, 20th June. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday, 3rd October.

The National Chef of the Year competition is run in partnership with KNORR, Lockhart Catering Equipment and SousVide Tools. It is supported by British Premium Meats, Cacao Barry, CCS, Churchill, Direct Seafood, Evolve, Mash, OpenTable and Ritter Courivaud.

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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.

Following a tense final at the Restaurant Show on 4th October, James Devine has been announced as the new National Chef of the Year for 2017. James, who is Sous Chef at Deanes Eipic, triumphed in the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition with a winning menu featuring Tees Valley Rib of Beef and a soft centered chocolate & coffee tart. Taking a close second was Adam Thomason of Deloitte, Restaurant Associates and in third place was Charles Smith of Alyn Williams at The Mayfair. 

Delighted with his win, James Devine commented: “I’m honoured, I never expected to win or to come this far. Today went well for me, I kept calm and was pleased with the way all my dishes came out. Each dish was something I’d happily eat or serve up. Right now, I feel humbled and very excited at the same time.”

As the winner, James Devine is now part of the National Chef of the Year 'Hall of Fame', which represents culinary excellence and offers the chance to meet and work with some of the most exciting industry names. He also wins a range of special prizes including a once-in-a-lifetime trip to one of the world’s top restaurants, stagiaire opportunities, equipment from sponsors and chocolate workshops. Best of all, having won the life-changing title, James now has the chance to follow in the footsteps of some the country’s most successful chefs, such as Alyn Williams, Gordon Ramsay and Mark Sargeant who have all previously held the title.

This year’s competition was one of the toughest yet, with an incredible list of high profile judges to impress, including Daniel Doherty - Group Executive Chef for Duck & Waffle Restaurants, Gary Jones - Executive Head Chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Claude Bosi - Chef Patron at Hibiscus and many more. 

David Mulcahy, the competition organiser and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs commented on this year’s final: “What an amazing final we’ve just witnessed. Looking at the chefs lined-up before it kicked off, I knew it was going to be close but these ten chefs gave the judges a difficult task. This year’s basket of ingredients was a real challenge and meant that we saw some amazing dishes. Today’s winner presented an excellent starter, main course and dessert.”

He continued: “Congratulations to James. He thoroughly deserved to take this title and this will be a career-defining and life-changing moment for him. The NCOTY competition began back in January so over the last nine months all ten finalists have had one clear goal in mind…winning the most prestigious title in the UK culinary calendar.”

Clare Smyth MBE, Chairman of Judges added: “After the level of cooking I’ve witnessed this afternoon, I couldn’t be more honoured to be Chair of judges for NCOTY. All finalists rose to the challenge and delivered delicious plates of food. It’s not easy cooking for these judges, many of whom are our finalists’ idols, but it’s so important to remain calm and hold your nerve. Although it was a tough decision, we had a clear winner in the end and some really stand out dishes that could be served up in any restaurant.”

The evening saw more exciting news with the announcement of Ruth Hansom from The Ritz as the first female Young National Chef of the Year. The competition, which has kick-started the careers of many of today’s industry stars, was closely fought with a high standard of entries from all young chefs. Second place was awarded to April Lily Partridge of The Clove Club and in third was Danny Young from Northcote.  

Commenting on her achievement, Ruth Hansom said: “I can’t put into words how amazing it feels, I’m so happy to have won. I’ve come second in the past and knew that I really wanted to win this year.”

Young National Chef of the Year Ambassador, Mark Sargeant commented: “Today’s competition was incredibly close, especially between the top three but Ruth really stood out with all her dishes. The advice we gave the young chefs was to create a dish that’s simple, flavoursome and well-presented and that’s exactly what we saw from her. It’s absolutely fantastic to have our first ever female Young National Chef of the Year.”

He continued “I couldn’t be any prouder of what all ten finalists did today. They were confident, calm and we saw some fantastic culinary skills demonstrated by chefs who are so early into their careers. It’s always great to follow these chefs through their careers and I’ve got no doubt that in a few years’ time some of these chefs are going to be competing on the senior stage.”

All of the finalists and winners celebrated their achievements in a ceremony at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday 4th October, with judges and sponsors on hand to offer their congratulations. 

For more information on the competition and details on the entry process, visit the new National Chef of the Year website at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk.

new size winners photo

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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 07876365427. 

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.

 

Ten chefs are one step closer to National Chef of the Year title

The Craft Guild of Chefs has announced which chefs will be heading to the live final of National Chef of the Year at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday 4th October 2016. To earn their place in the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition, the successful chefs had to compete in a cook-off at Sheffield College or Le Cordon Bleu in London.

Danny Parker, Head Chef at House of Tides in Newcastle was the first chef to take a place after winning the Sheffield Heat on Tuesday, 14th June. He will be joined by today’s London Heat winners Martin Carabott, Senior Sous Chef at The Royal Automobile Club, Adam Thomason, Head Chef at Restaurant Associates and Charles Smith, Head Chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury. The final six places were given to the chefs from all the heats who had the highest scores and completing the talented line-up is: Liam McKenna, Head Chef at Trump International, James Devine, Sous Chef at EIPIC, Paul Foster, Chef Patron of Salt, Stephanie Coupland, Chef de Partie at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Luciano Lucioli, Head Chef at Lusso – CH&Co. and Kamil Wierzbowski, Sous Chef at Petrus Restaurant, Gordon Ramsay.

As well as competing in the National Chef of the Year final, the chefs will also attend a Mentor Day at The Grove, Hertfordshire on Monday 5th September. Chefs will be presented with a mystery basket of ingredients to be used in the final and enjoy a masterclass with former NCOTY winner, Russell Bateman.

Talking after the announcement of the finalists at a presentation ceremony at Le Cordon Bleu, David Mulcahy, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of the competition said: “This has probably been our most hotly-contested semi-finals to date, starting with an amazing Sheffield heat last week and some closely fought London heats today. It was an interesting brief this year which focused on core culinary skills and these ten chefs have demonstrated a high level of skill whilst adapting the brief to their own cooking style.”

The semi-finals were judged by a panel of over 40 judges chaired by Clare Smyth MBE, who commented “I know I said it last year, but the standard of cooking in these semi-finals gets more impressive each year. What is most interesting for me is how high the standard was in Sheffield, the chefs up there put so much work and originality into their dishes and it was so close at the top. I believe we have found ten incredibly talented chefs who now have to raise their game even further to be in with a chance of taking the UK’s most sought-after title.”

In addition to the NCOTY announcement, several of the young chefs going forward to the Young National Chef of the Year Final were also revealed. Heat winners Arthur Bridgeman-Quin from the Punchbowl Inn and Ruth Hansom from The Ritz are to be joined by the four highest scoring young chefs from both the London and Sheffield heats, with the remaining YNCOTY finalists to be seeded from other industry competitions. The four additional YNCOTY finalists were named as Danny Young of Northcote Manor, Drew Snaith from Brunswick House, April Lily Partridge from The Clove Business Club and Daniela Tucci of The Art School Restaurant.

You can find out more about the competition and follow the progress on Twitter with @Craft_Guild and #NCOTY and on the website at www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk.

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 07876365427.

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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