Sourcing British produce is a key element of the brief that was created for this year’s National Chef of the Year by chair of judges, Gary Jones. Since taking on this role, Gary has invested huge amounts of time in putting together briefs that truly showcase each chef’s knowledge of produce and classic culinary skills.
We asked last year’s finalist, Glenn Evans for his thoughts on the British brief for this year. He said: “A British brief is very important. Why not use what is on our doorstep? There are all sorts of breeds to experiment with that I wouldn’t normally use in my restaurant and it is good to see how they work with my South American colours and flavours.”
Runner-up from 2018 and winner of the Matt Campbell Extra Mile Award, George Blogg added: “With a focus on food miles and regional cuisine a British brief is crucial. This year’s brief is a lovely menu that should be very well balanced, although it will definitely test all the semi-finalists who make it past the first stage.”
We are proud to work with a vast range of suppliers who are able to source the best products for our competitors. All our sponsors go the extra mile when it comes to the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition so that we are providing chefs with the most valuable experience.
Our official meat supplier
One of those is British Premium Meats who is the official butcher for National Chef of the Year and every year, the team works hard to supply the highest quality British produce for our talented finalists. Weston Wright, head of sales told us: “Buying British isn’t a new thing but there has definitely been a growing interest in British charcuterie and artisan suppliers. We work hard to find the breeds that our customers want, and this includes chefs from all sectors, from schools and contract caterers to pubs and fine dining establishments. Consumers do want to see British ingredients on the menu, but I think as an industry we can get too focused on postcode purchasing. You can get quality products right across Britain but certain breeds are better from one region than another. It’s a small country at the end of the day. That’s why we work so closely with chefs to meet their needs, give advice and expertise whilst providing only the best British quality.”
The buying department at British Premium Meats spends a lot of time getting out to the farms and processors to hear their story and they regularly share this wisdom with their customers. They travel the length and breadth of the country to source the very best products at a competitive price. It also provides butchery training and workshops to educate customers when needed. This includes exploring the different cuts of meat and how to use them effectively in different dishes. Weston added: “Many people are still throwing away a large amount of the carcass and our workshops can help educate chefs on making full use of the product. This not only saves money, with many cheaper cuts being used, but it also creates new tastes and flavours, whilst reducing food waste.”
Another NCOTY supplier who firmly puts the focus on British is Direct Seafoods. It supplies fresh and frozen fish and seafood directly to professional kitchens, with their customers ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants, hotels, pubs, colleges and universities, to sports stadiums and contract caterers throughout the UK.
Brian Hall, managing director of Direct Seafoods said: “Each of our local fishmongers has its own unique identity, reflected by our various brand names across the country. They all have their own team of filleters, buyers, drivers and account managers. From each of our eight business locations we source, prepare and deliver using temperature-controlled vehicles, six days a week. There is increasing interest from chefs in sourcing and serving British food, and for consumers, skilfully prepared fish and seafood dishes are very appealing options when they eat out. The latest analysis by MCA Menu Tracker shows that the number of fish and seafood dishes has grown across all eating out channels over the past year, with 3.3% growth overall, and a 14.3% increase in starter dishes. To meet this demand, each Direct Seafoods business buys from local fishing vessels at auction each day, sourcing sustainable, day boat fish at ports around the UK.
“As just a few examples, at Peterhead, Scotland, the UK’s white fish capital, we buy the North Sea and Atlantic’s best Cod, Coley, Monk, Haddock, Lemon Sole, Plaice, Hake, Megrim, Pollock and Squid; from West Mersea in Essex comes a fantastic supply of locally harvested Oysters; and Brixham’s famous fish market in Devon provides us with a host of local day boat fish each day, such as Plaice, Dover Sole, Brill, Turbot, Monkfish, Squid and Cuttlefish. It’s important that chefs know where the fish and seafood they serve is caught and landed, so that they can communicate the provenance of the dishes they serve to customers through menus, specials boards, websites and social media.
“Increasingly, both chefs and consumers also want to ensure that food is sustainably sourced. With more consumers than ever expecting operators to put sustainably caught and managed fish on the menu, Direct Seafoods offers regular updates not only on which species are being caught sustainably, but which are ‘red rated’ and should be avoided. This includes downloadable posters that can be used by chefs as a simple reference guide when ordering, backed up by a range of information and resources.”
As a former female finalist of the competition we were keen to find out what Stephanie Coupland thought about buying British. She told us: “A British brief is a very good idea for the competition this year as it is a current trend. It is good to use locally sourced produce and also reduce the environmental footprint. Be a responsible chef and try and use the best produce that is around you.”
Over the coming weeks, 40 semi-finalists will be practising their British menus ready to cook in front of the judges at Sheffield College or Le Cordon Bleu. You can follow all the action via the Craft Guild of Chefs on Twitter @Craft_Guild and Instagram @craftguildofchefs.