Meet some of your National Chef of the Year Sheffield semi-finalists

The first National Chef of the Year semi-final takes place at Sheffield College tomorrow (Tuesday, 6th June) and we’ve got an incredible list of chefs in this first heat. Only the winner of the heat will be guaranteed a place in the live final at The Restaurant Show whilst the rest of the chefs will need to wait until the London semi-finals have taken place to find out whether they’ve made it.

Here’s a reminder of all the chefs competing in our first heat.

  • Ian Boden, development chef, Flourish Food Solutions
  • Jack Bradley, head chef, Temple Sowerby House Hotel
  • Ben Champkin, sous chef, L'Enclume Restaurant
  • Dan Graham, head chef, Talbot Hotel Malton
  • Tom Lawson, chef patron, Rafters Restaurant
  • David Stevens, conference and meeting sous chef, The Balmoral Hotel
  • Mathew Shropshall, chef lecturer, UCB - College of Food
  • Matthew Ramsdale. sous chef, The Chester Grosvenor
  • Dean Westcar, head chef, Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park
  • Aled Williams, head of development and innovation, TRUEfoods
  • Liam McKenna, sous chef, Trump International
  • Jamie Coleman, head chef, Saunton Sands Hotel

We’ve been catching up with some of these chefs to find out how they’re feeling ahead of the competition, what they thought of the brief and what winning would mean to them.

Matt Ramsdale

You can follow Matt on Twitter @chefmattrams and Instagram @matt_ramsdale.

“I decided to enter NCOTY after watching and following the competition for several years. Seeing what idols of mine can achieve and seeing chefs go from humble roots to becoming the National Chef of the Year made me realise that could be me. You need to push to achieve the best you can. This year’s brief was tough, not all chefs like vegetarian food, and although I'm not one of them, veggie food isn't my strongest. But after some trial and error, I found what I believe is a beautiful combination. Duck and cherries is so classic that it was almost too simple, but I knew the judges were looking for flair and the chef to stamp his or her mark so I feel I've taken a risk. Let’s hope it pays off. Dessert was a comfortable area of mine, so a classic tart put a big smile on my face.

Getting an email letting me know I’d made the semi-finals made my jaw drop. To be selected, alongside some of the countries strongest and most talented chefs is an honour and to be part of it all has made me want it even more. I can't wait to get in the kitchen and show the judges what I can do. Cooking and creating is what I live for, food is my life, so I can't look forward to anything more than just cooking with everything I've got! To win NCOTY would be life changing. It would give me the drive and the confidence to help me be the chef I believe I can be one day.”

Ben Champkin

You can follow Ben on Twitter using @champkin7792.

“I thought I would give the NCOTY competition a go because I like to challenge myself, better myself and it's the first year I can enter within the age limit. I loved the brief this year and that’s one of the reasons I entered. It was very clear to me what the judges were looking for in this competition. When I found out I’d made it into the semi-final I felt very honoured to cook for some of the best chefs in the UK and compete against other great chefs. I’m looking forward to nailing the cuisson on my duck and delivering my dishes exactly how I have practiced them. Winning would mean everything to me. It would be a great achievement to be on the board with the elite of chefs. To say I've won the Young National Chef of the Year title in 2013 and NCOTY in 2017 would be incredible.”

Dan Graham

You can follow Dan on Twitter with @dangraham21.

“I originally entered the NCOTY competition as I feel I'm in a position where I can actually challenge to win it. After all what's the point in entering if you don't think you could win. I'm 35 and been a chef since the age of 16. I've worked so hard to get where I am but still don't feel I've had my big break yet. I'm hoping NCOTY can be the platform which I'm looking for. I was runner-up in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2009, however it was before I had Twitter or other social networks, so I’ve never really managed to promote myself from it.

I love the brief this year, being the age I am, I'm a very classically trained chef and the brief lends itself to the more classic base of chefs. Saying that, I still produce a modern British style of food but use the classic techniques I trained in to produce this style. I like the fact the starter is vegetarian as some of my best dishes are vegetarian. You can't get much more classical than duck with cherries and then a classic tart. I'll be using my experience from working for the Roux family to nail the dessert course, whilst giving it a modern twist.

I was so shocked when I found out I had made it through, I'm generally good at controlling my emotions but I was all over the place when I heard. I didn't know where to put myself, I was so excited but really scared at the same time. For the first couple of hours I felt sick and I'm still getting butterflies just thinking about it.

I think meeting all the chef judges is going to be my highlight. I've followed a number of them through the years, used their cook books and eaten in their restaurants. It's going to be hard not to be star struck to be honest but hopefully I don't make a fool of myself by asking for autographs.

I'd imagine that every chef in the competition will say the same thing about how winning would mean the world to them and how it will change their life. But at this stage in my career I don't see anyone wanting it more than I do. I suppose you could say it's now or never for me. I'll be giving it everything I've got to win the competition.”

Aled Williams

You can follow Aled on Twitter using @chef_aled

“I entered this year’s NCOTY as I believe it is one of, if not THE biggest competition open to professional chefs in the UK. It is very exciting to be up against some of the best chefs in Britain at the moment. The brief is clever as it is challenging us to take a lesser regarded vegetarian starter and pushing us to elevate our skills. The duck in the main course needs to have crisp fat but beautifully pink meat and it will go really well with cherries. Having a tart as a dessert is also difficult as there are so many techniques to get a perfect tart but nowhere to hide if it doesn't go your way on the day.

My wife rang me to let me know I was chosen to be in the semi-finals. I felt elated and excited to be given this opportunity to test myself against some great chefs. I am really looking forward to cooking for the judges as it's the ‘who is who’ of the industry. To be given praise and recognition by some of my culinary idols would be a proud moment. Winning the National Chef of the Year title would be the biggest achievement of my career, and there are many career highs I am proud of. I would also potentially be the first Welsh chef to do so and that would be an added incentive to be crowned the National Chef of the Year.”

Ian Boden

Keep up to date with Ian’s news by following @ianboden on Twitter.

“I have entered a few times before, and I made the final in 2008. I enjoy competing against some of the best chefs in the industry, it’s great to see what others are cooking and it’s great for networking. The brief for this year is interesting and I thought it was something that I could deliver well. I like some of the classic inspirations including cherry and duck, and a seasonal tart, it will be interesting to see how everyone interprets these. I’m most looking forward to seeing how I compare against the rest of the field and hopefully I will not embarrass myself. Having worked hard over the past 22 years it would be fantastic recognition from my peers in the industry to win this competition, especially as most of the judges are chefs that I greatly admire.”

Jack Bradley

You can follow @chefjbradley on Twitter.

I entered NCOTY last year and reached the semi-finals. It was such a worthwhile and fulfilling experience that it was impossible for me not to re-enter and I'm so happy I did. The brief this year is truly outstanding and very inviting. I can't think of a better brief for a chef wanting to prove their worth. When I got the news that I was through to the semi-finals I was elated. It's been a constant thought for almost a year and it is a privilege, one that I don't take lightly. I'm excited about every part of the next stage, and hopefully getting the dishes out perfectly. The thought of winning is indescribable. It would mean the world right now.”

Dean Westcar

Keep up-to-date with Dean’s news on Twitter by following @DeanWestcar.

I decided to enter NCOTY as I wanted to push myself, and see how I stood up against some of the best chefs in the country. The brief this year is great, not only testing basic skills but testing your creativity on brilliant simplicity. I was overwhelmed to hear I had made it through to the semi-finals. After applying before and not making the cut, knowing that I had ticked the right boxes this year put a massive smile on my face. This week I am looking forward to cooking my dishes for the judges and receiving their feedback. It’s always an honour cooking for chefs that have inspired you throughout your career.

Winning would mean everything! To be among the chef's that have won it in the past and following in their footsteps would be incredible. Knowing that the judges have enjoyed eating my food over the other chefs will feel surreal.”

David Stevens

Follow the tweets from David at @dcs_18.

“I entered the NCOTY competition to test myself against the best chefs in the UK. The brief for this year is really good for the amazing seasonal produce we have in Scotland. I was ecstatic to make it to the next round! I was told I had made it through by my girlfriend who also works in the hotel. I’m really looking forward to cooking my food for the judges in the next round. It will be very humbling to win and this would definitely be a career highlight.”

Tom Lawson

You can follow Tom on Twitter using @Lawson_chef.

“I entered NCOTY because I wanted a challenge that would push myself beyond my comfort zone and I thought the brief was excellent. As soon as I read it the ideas began flowing as to what I was going to cook. I really like the fact that the brief is so open-ended so I am excited to see how all the chefs have interpreted it in their own style.

When I found out I was in the semi-finals I was over the moon. I submitted my entry quite a while before the deadline so it has been a long wait to find out if I made it through. Now I am just looking forward to getting in the kitchen and cooking to the best of my ability. I am most looking forward to the nervous energy in the kitchen. There will be some fantastic chefs in the kitchen judging us and I am excited to show them what I can produce. Winning NCOTY would mean a huge amount to me. It is one of my life goals.”

You can follow the action of the semi-finals on Twitter from @Craft_Guild. Get involved with the competition using the hashtag #NCOTY and look out for the announcement of our first finalist in the afternoon. 

After an exciting and busy judging process involving some of the UK’s top chefs, 41 semi-finalists are in the running to win National Chef of the Year 2018.

These talented chefs will compete in the heats at Sheffield College on Tuesday 6th June or at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London on Tuesday 20th June 2017.

Allister Barsby, executive chef, Grove of Narberth
Ian Boden, development chef, Flourish Food Solutions
Jack Bradley, head chef, Temple Sowerby House Hotel
Ben Champkin, sous chef, L'Enclume Restaurant
Jamie Coleman, head chef, Saunton Sands Hotel
James Cousins , Jnr sous chef, Restaurant Associates
Robert Cox, head chef, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
David Davey-Smith, chef, Royal Air Force Worthy Down
Richard Davies, head chef, Epicure/Celtic Manor
Nathan Eades, head chef, Simpsons Restaurant
Glenn Evans, head of food development, Las Iguanas
John Grabecki, head chef, BNY Mellon
Dan Graham, head chef, Talbot Hotel Malton
Liam Grime, Cpl chef, Captain of the Combined Services Culinary Arts Team RAF Odiham
Adam Handling, chef, Adam Handling Limited / The Frog Restaurant
Ollie Hay, head chef, Nomura
Jahdre Hayward, head chef, Haywards Restaurant
Will Holland, head chef, Coast Restaurant
Tom Lawson, chef patron, Rafters Restaurant
Luciano Lucioli , head chef, Lusso - CH&Co
Cormac Mc Creary, sous chef, The Ritz London
Liam McKenna, sous chef, Trump International
Sarah-Jasmina Moussabih, head chef, 10 feet tall
Karl O`Dell, senior sous chef, Petrus - Gordon Ramsay
Jack O'Donovan, sous chef, Baxter Storey
Andonis Paraskevas, executive head chef, Lusso catering
Scott Perkins, restaurant operations chef trainer, University of West London/ Pillars Restaurant
Matthew Ramsdale, sous chef, The Chester Grosvenor
Luke Selby, head chef, Dabbous
Mathew Shropshall, chef lecturer, UCB - College of Food
Nick Smith, head chef, Harbour & Jones / Ashurst
David Stevens, conference and meeting sous chef, The Balmoral Hotel
Marcin Szelag, head chef, Rocksalt Folkestone
Robert Taylor, chef patron, Compasses Inn
Adam Thomason, head chef, Restaurant Associates- Deloitte
Simon Webb, head chef, Restaurant Associates
Dean Westcar, head chef, Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park
Thomas Westerland, sous chef, Lucknam Park
Aled Williams, head of development and innovation, TRUEfoods
Kuba Winkowski, head chef, The Feathered Nest Inn
Andy Wright, head chef, Mercedes F1 Headquarters

RESERVES

Patrick Frischknecht, senior chef de partie, Petrus Gordon Ramsay
Grzegorz Olejarka, executive chef, The Trafalgar Hotel

The top scoring chef in each heat automatically gets a place in the live final at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday, 3rd October at Olympia, London. It will then be down to the six chefs who received the highest runner-up scores to complete the line-up.

To get to the semi-finals, chefs have already had to impress 13 judges, including the new Chair of Judges, Gary Jones from Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons who will oversee the whole competition. He analysed all menu courses alongside David Mulcahy and Andrew Bennett who were on hand to help whittle the list down. Starters were judged by Alyn Williams, Peter Joyner and Willie Pike, with main courses being scrutinised by Clare Smyth MBE, Philip Howard, Russell Bateman and Steve Scuffell. Marking the mouth-watering desserts this year was Graham Hornigold, Sarah Hartnett and Julie Sharp.

In the next round chefs must cook-up their menu in two hours and it has to include a vegetarian based starter, a duck and cherry combination main course and a classic tart as a dessert.

Speaking after the judging day, Gary Jones, executive head chef at Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons said “The paper judging process is rigorous, detailed and thorough. It's a tough assignment to take on and it's taken several of the industry's finest to assess the skills and professionalism of all our entrants. The standard of recipes and methods are so important for success. To stand out, chefs must show their knowledge, understanding of flavour combinations, seasonality, provenance, balance, texture and nail the brief to the tee. We are looking for 'brilliant simplicity'. The personal growth in every NCOTY entrant is amazing to witness and it will help propel their careers and raise the bar in our industry. Now the
paper side of the competition is complete, let's see what awaits our judges in the semi-finals.

Organiser of the competition and Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulcahy added “From the moment we announced the brief for this year, I’ve seen and received so many comments about what a fantastic opportunity it provided for chefs to show us their skills. Chefs have absolutely risen to the challenge and created what can only be described as stunning menus. Every year the competition develops and grows with high profile judges, amazing sponsors, increased marketing activity and new chef names being pushed into the limelight. My advice for all the semi-finalists is to grab this opportunity with both hands because the ten chefs that make the final will purely be based on what comes out of the kitchen next month.”

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

You can follow all the action from NCOTY by following @Craft_Guild and #NCOTY on Twitter or visit the website www.craftguildofchefs.org.  

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.

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.

-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.

  • 40+

    Respected
    Judges

  • 9mil

    PR Reach

  • 6000+

    Facebook Reach

  • 200+

    Instagram Photos Shared

  • 1000+

    Twitter Followers

  • 7000+

    Tweets

In Partnership With

Supported By

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider