A word from your National Chef of the Year organiser...
It’s just a few weeks until the closing date for National Chef of the Year. I know many of you are still busy working on your entries and so I wanted to share some thoughts on the paper entry stage which may help you add that finishing touch to your entry.
National Chef of the Year is the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition and can put winner’s firmly on the map. A chef from any industry can enter and we actively encourage chefs from all sectors to be part of this competition. Remember, anyone can enter and anyone can win.
Whether your menu is ready to submit or you are still thinking about your dishes here are my top ten tips for getting through the first stage.
1. It’s plain and simple! To get through to the semi-finals you need to have a stand out paper entry. The judging is anonymous so all our 11 judges see is your menu, recipes and images and you need to ensure yours get noticed. Invest the time now as producing a winning menu at this stage could be what gets you through to the final at The Restaurant Show.
2. Read the brief and entry guidelines over and over again to ensure you haven’t missed anything. You can see the full details online here.
3. This year’s brief was put together to really focus on chefs’ skills. There’s so much talk in our industry about lack of skills and National Chef of the Year aims to put a chef’s culinary skills to the ultimate test. Talent is required to produce an amazing risotto (it must be a classic rice dish). Chicken, when done well can demonstrate a chef’s depth of knowledge and ability to balance flavours and textures, whilst a choux pastry dessert will challenge some chefs, especially in an unfamiliar kitchen.
4. Make sure you create something which you have tried and tested. You will have to cook this dish at the semi-final so don’t make things complicated for yourself by attempting a dish that is impractical. You will be working in a kitchen with limited space and with equipment you aren’t necessarily used to so bear this in mind when menu planning.
5. Our judges only have what’s on paper to assess your culinary skills so make sure it’s easy to read, understand and follow. You want the judges to almost be able to taste the dish simply from how you describe it. For the first time the full entry process is done online on our new website and you will need to include a name, ingredients, method and image for each dish.
6. Give your entry to someone else in your team to read before you submit it so they can ensure they are able to follow it clearly. Make sure they have also checked the brief and entry guidelines so nothing is missed. To progress in this competition your entry has to be absolutely right as it’s this alone that will get you into the semi-final.
7. Next week we are going to be sharing a blog with advice about taking good food photographs and I’d really recommend you take the time to ensure your photos do your dish justice. There’s no point in creating a fantastic dish for bad lighting or blurry images to let it down.
8. Timing is key as you will only be allowed two hours to cook and serve all three dishes in the semi-final. Make sure you have actually tested the recipes out before you enter so you are confident what you have written down is achievable on the day. Chefs who go over the time will lose marks from our judges. Many competitors test out their menus with colleagues, family, friends or even customers to get feedback and this enables dishes to be tweaked before they are submitted for the final time.
9. Every judge will tell you the same. It’s all about the flavour of the food. Whilst it is important it’s well presented, ultimately producing a delicious plate of food will score much higher marks with our expert panel.
10. I was recently asked to describe National Chef of the Year in three words and I said commitment, passion and delicious (food). Think about these three words when planning your entry and at each stage of the competition.
The closing date for entries is 8th April. Don’t miss out on the chance to be this year’s winner. You’ve got to be in it to win it. Register now and complete our online form.
By David Mulcahy