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There’s still time to get involved in National Chef of the Year

Today, the Craft Guild of Chefs has announced a deadline extension for its National Chef of the Year competition following demand from chefs up and down the country. Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking to judges, winners and former finalists to discover what makes this competition so special.

When asked to describe that winning moment it’s often very hard for chefs. However, 2012 winner and now a regular NCOTY judge, Alyn Williams told us “Hearing my name as the winner was a fantastic feeling. It’s only two hours of cooking but it is super intense. I really wanted to win, but genuinely wasn’t expecting it as I was up against a group of very good cooks. Winning National Chef of the Year puts you in a very positive position; the industry respects it and to win it improves your credibility. It helps with confidence and creates new opportunities.”

Regular NCOTY judge, James Petrie, group executive development chef at Gordon Ramsay Group said “I love the opportunity to see what the next generation of talented chefs are producing. Each time I judge, I am amazed at the thought-process of the chefs to create these brilliant dishes, under such immense pressure.”

Russell Bateman admits to being surprised but elated when his name was called out as the winner of National Chef of the Year in 2014. “There was also an element of nerves as I was stepping in to big shoes. It’s not just about winning on the day, or even just for the following year. You are becoming an ambassador for the competition for the future so there’s a lot to live up to. Winning this title means more people now know who I am, and different circles of people know who I am. It has also given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have experienced before. Owning the title gives you more recognition and respect as someone who goes the extra mile and is prepared to put in hard work.”

As the winner of the title in 2016, James Devine firmly believes that competitions like NCOTY help a chef to develop their skills: “Competitions are like a catalyst for learning and improving. When you apply yourself and put yourself in a pressure cauldron like that, you come out a stronger chef and person regardless of the outcome. NCOTY will be one of the scariest moments of your career but it’s also one of the best. Personally, I just tried to enjoy it as I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and was not likely to happen again.”

Danny Parker, head chef at House of Tides in Newcastle entered NCOTY because he wanted to challenge himself commenting: “I wanted to see what the judges really thought of my food and I wanted to win it, as when you look at that list and see some of the names on there, it really makes you think.”

A finalist in the 2017 competition, Dean Westcar, head chef at Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park added: “Doing this competition helps you to improve skills as to create a great dish, you need to work cleaner, smarter and faster which helps you every day back in your kitchen. I have always wanted to do the NCOTY competition and I think everyone wants to leave their mark in the industry, what better place to start.”

For those looking for last minute entry tips here are some of words of wisdom: -

“The best piece of advice I was given was to prepare my dessert first. It’s absolutely the best advice as doing that gave me more time at the end to stay focused. Another good piece of advice is to simply to make sure you have three strong dishes. It may sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how often we see cooks paying more attention to one dish over another.”
Alyn Williams

“One of the biggest challenges of the competition was working to the time limit and being able to organise and deliver the all three courses exactly how you would like them to be served. That’s why my advice would always be to keep the dishes simple. It is so easy to make it over-complicated.”
Larry Jayesekara

“I think the biggest challenge that I had was getting everything I had to do executed consistently, to a standard I was happy with, in the time frame. That was hard to overcome but I just drilled myself and refined everything until I could pull it off in the time.”
Luke Selby

“You learn a lot about yourself as a cook by going through the process, how can you make the dishes better in the two-hour time limit, through honing, developing and feedback. You build up a great rapport with fellow competitors, organisers and ultimately the judges, it is vital that you get feedback on how you can take that forward be it into the final or for the next competition. Ultimately if you don’t take that small step of submitting an entry with a tasty starter, main and dessert then you are never going to be the next National Chef of The Year!”
Hayden Groves

The deadline for entries has been extended until Thursday 12th April 2018. It’s never too late to start an entry and taking the time this year could literally be life-changing.

Enter NCOTY here.

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