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.

Paul Ainsworth announced as Chair of Judges for The National Chef of the Year

The Craft Guild of Chefs has announced that Paul Ainsworth will take over as Chair of Judges for its 2020 and 2021 competitions. He takes over the role from Gary Jones, executive head chef at Le Manoir, who has led the team of judges for the last three years and crowned Steve Groves, Kuba Winkowski and Luke Selby as winners.

Paul is Chef Patron of the Paul Ainsworth Collection and has been selected by the Craft Guild of Chefs to bring new ideas to the competition. The Guild regularly changes its chair to ensure the competition grows, develops and entices the best chefs in the UK to enter.

Organiser of the competition, David Mulcahy who is Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs said: “Paul has been on the judging panel in the past and has helped us to discover some amazing winners. He has shown real integrity in his judging style and will bring a wealth of experience to what’s regarded as the UK’s biggest culinary challenge. We’ve already started working with him on the plans for the year ahead and we are excited by what he’s set to bring to the competition. Sustainability has been at the heart of The National Chef of the Year for many years but under Paul’s guidance, we are going to see this more than ever. All chefs should be ready and waiting for the brief to be revealed and to start working on their entries as it’s going to be an incredible year to enter.”

Paul Ainsworth has given a taster of how he will be putting his own spin on the competition, adding: “I am absolutely committed to this role and believe it’s important to lead from the top so my judging will be honest, firm and honourable. As head judge, I’ll be watching semi-finalists and finalists closely during the cook-offs and making sure the team of judges are working hard throughout the two hours to find the right winner. The full brief will be revealed next month but I’ll be going back to basics so that all the chefs need to think about, is making food that is truly delicious and showcases their own style, skill and flair. Whilst it’s important this competition remains current, it’s a cooking competition at the end of the day and I want the competitors to produce food that appeals to all five senses. As judges we just want to taste food that makes us say ‘wow’.”

The National Chef of the Year competition will be open for online entry next month and chefs should follow the Craft Guild of Chefs social media channels for updates using @Craft_Guild on Twitter, @CraftGuildofChefs on Instagram and through Facebook at www.facebook.com/craftguildofchefs. Chefs who would like to be added to the NCOTY mailing list and be notified when entries open should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or send a message via social media.

 

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.

About Paul Ainsworth
Southampton-born Paul Ainsworth is the successful chef and businessman behind Paul Ainsworth at No.6, Caffe Rojano, Padstow Townhouse, Mahé Cookery School and Chef’s Table, all located in Padstow, Cornwall. In 2006 Paul became head chef at Padstow’s No.6. Paul and his wife Emma took over the business in 2009 and earned the restaurant a Michelin star four years later. The restaurant has become synonymous with high-quality ingredients served simply, while incorporating playful twists. In 2011, Paul acquired Rojano’s in Padstow, a Mediterranean restaurant opened by Stanley Rojano in 1974. In a nod to Paul’s mentor Gary Rhodes, the restaurant was renamed Rojano’s in the Square in 2011, with their classic Italian dishes proving popular with guests. In 2020 Paul and Emma purchased the lease to the building and carried out a full rebrand, renaming it Caffe Rojano and implementing a fresh New York/Italian inspired menu. Padstow Townhouse opened in 2015, a six-suite guesthouse in Padstow’s Old Town, realising the couple’s dream of offering their diners somewhere to stay. 2018 saw the launch of the Paul Ainsworth Academy in partnership with Truro & Penwith College, offering hospitality students paid experience across all five of Ainsworth’s businesses. In May 2019, Paul and Emma reopened The Mariners pub in Rock, Cornwall in partnership with Sharps Brewery. 2019 also saw the launch of Mahé Cookery School and Chef’s Table, the couple’s fourth Padstow venture. With Executive Chef, John Walton at the helm, it’s named after an island in the Seychelles, Mahé takes its name from the location where Paul’s parents first met.

Tuesday, 1st October, 2019

The National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year 2020
winners revealed

An impressive list of chefs has been whittled down from over 100 to just one as Steve Groves, head chef at Roux at Parliament Square was selected by the UK’s toughest culinary experts to take the title of The National Chef of the Year 2020. However, it was a closely fought battle with ten talented chefs aiming to take the top spot in a live two-hour cook-off at The Restaurant Show.

Taking the runner-up spot was Derek Johnstone, head chef from Borthwick Castle with Nick Smith, head chef at Vacherin placing in third.

Chefs had to create three courses in two hours and Steve served up a menu of red mullet, shellfish mousse and bouillabaisse sauce, followed by a main course of suckling pig, Jerusalem artichokes, quince, hazelnut and trompettes with Calvados Baba, honey poached pears and creme fraiche Chantilly for dessert. This year’s judges were led by Gary Jones, executive head chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons who had a team of 19 chefs helping him find the winner. The list included Sat Bains, Clare Smyth, David Mulcahy, Claude Bosi, Jonny Lake, Philip Howard, Ollie Dabbous, James Petrie and former winners Alyn Williams and Simon Hulstone.

Sustainability and seasonality were the key focus points of this year’s brief which was put together by Gary Jones and competition organiser, David Mulcahy. Finalists were tasked with creating a bouillabaisse style flavoured starter using under-utilised fish. For the main course, chefs had to use cuts of suckling pig with the opportunity to pre-cook one element of the pig prior to the competition, ensuring it did not amount to more than 20% of the final dish. Finally, the chefs were asked to create an elegant dessert honouring seasonal pears, which showcased technical skill, balance and maximum flavour impact.

Straight after scoring the dishes, Gary Jones said: “We’ve seen some amazing cooking today. What stood out for me about Steve was his good, strong, clean flavours. He didn’t over complicate his menu and approached the brief well resulting in beautiful flavours. When it came to the main course, he served-up the best crackling in the room and I was salivating just looking at it.”

Knowing he now holds the title of The National Chef of the Year, Steve Groves said: “I am delighted, relieved and surprised. It was hard work and those two hours went by in the blink of an eye but I focused on the flavours of the dish. I am incredibly pleased to win this title and I can’t wait to celebrate with my team, who I couldn’t have done this without.”

Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulcahy who has organises the competition added: “What an amazing final we’ve seen today! Firstly, congratulations to Steve Groves who has done an incredible job and now becomes a true ambassador for our industry. When you take this title, it’s about more than what you have cooked today as the chefs who have won previously are still some of the most talked about figures in hospitality. Each year, we make sure that the competition is truly relevant to today’s diners and is addressing industry trends whilst putting all our finalists firmly on the map. It’s known as the hardest culinary competition in the UK which is why this title is so sought-after and the one competition every chef wants to win.”

It’s not just the senior chefs who are in the spotlight today as a new Young National Chef of the Year has also been crowned. William Keeble who is demi chef de partie at Whatley Manor won the competition. In second place was Jordon Powell, chef de partie at South Lodge Hotel and George Harding, senior chef de partie, The Atlantic Hotel took the final place on the podium.

The ten finalists were tasked with creating two different vegetarian or vegan canapes for the starter and a Norwegian cod main course appropriately garnished and served with an emulsified hot, warm or cold sauce. Finally, they served up a plated dessert using a classic Victoria Sponge as a base.

Hrisikesh Desai took on the role of Chair of Judges for the YNCOTY competition earlier this year and alongside his team of ten judges, has truly found one to watch in William Keeble. Commenting on the level of cooking he’s seen today he said: “It wasn’t easy to decide the winner and it was extremely close, coming down to tiny details but I think we’ve got a fantastic winner. William balanced the flavour well and showed artistry in his work. He showcased a lot of skill elements that can be easy to mess up under pressure and on top of that his organisation was incredible. He was cool, calm and showed that he has practised and wanted to push himself to the absolute limit.”

Both of the winners have access to some amazing prizes following today’s success. Steve not only takes home the title but also wins:

  • The National Chef of the Year winner’s medal.
  • One-year’s membership to the Craft Guild of Chefs.
  • Thanks to Knorr Professional and Unilever Food Solutions, the 2020 NCOTY winner will have the opportunity to create their own digital recipe book as well as receive a media training session up to the value of £7,500, in addition to opportunities to raise their profile working with Unilever Food Solutions.
  • £1000 voucher to spend within the Lockharts’ range.
  • A chef’s tour of Lebanon - the three top chefs will win a culinary trip to Lebanon. They’ll have the chance to explore the region’s exciting food, wine and restaurant culture and bring some inspiration back to their kitchens. From Beirut’s innovative street-food to outstanding wines from the Bekaa Valley, there’s a whole world of stunning cuisine to discover.
  • Exclusively designed winner’s plate framed together with the winner’s medal as well as an additional prize of £500 worth of Churchill products.
  • A bespoke Savernake knife to be made for the winner of The National Chef of the Year.

As the YNCOTY winner, William will enjoy:

  • One year’s membership to the Craft Guild of Chefs.
  • The 2019 YNCOTY winner will win the opportunity to grow professionally via a work development or trial session in a Michelin starred restaurant, valued at £2,500. In addition, they will promote this trial via an Instagram take-over and blog post with Knorr Professional and Unilever Food Solutions to further raise their profile.
  • This year’s Young National Chef of the Year winner will join Michel Roux Jr for the culinary trip of a lifetime to Norway, in conjunction with Seafood from Norway. Over three exciting days in February 2020, they’ll celebrate the Skrei cod season (a seasonal Norwegian delicacy) at a beautiful fishing village with unrivalled local hospitality, plenty of fantastic food with fishing, hot tubs and hopefully sightings of the northern lights. On their return, the winner will have the opportunity to cook a signature Skrei menu at a high-level luncheon for press, chefs and industry members, hosted by the Norwegian Embassy and Michel Roux Jr.
  • As well as a product prize of £250 and a framed presentation plate, Churchill will also be taking the winner to a European city for a Gastronomic Experience trip.
  • A bespoke knife to be made for the winner of the Young National Chef of the Year. 

Churchill ran its ‘People’s Choice’ prize to reward ‘Exceptional Presentation.’ The award was presented to Bethan Disley-Jones for her main course in YNCOTY after receiving the most votes on social media.

The competitions are run in partnership with KNORR and Lockhart Catering Equipment and are supported by British Premium Meats, CCS, Churchill, Direct Seafood, Evolve Recruitment, HIT Training, Mash, Norwegian Seafood, OpenTable, Ritter Courivaud, Santa Maria, Sousvide Tools, UNOX, Quorn and WearerTech.

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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