Who will be the winner of Heat 4 of NCOTY?
After the final heat of NCOTY has taken place we will be revealing which ten chefs are heading to The Restaurant Show in October to battle it out in our live final. Before the competition hots up on Wednesday (22nd June) we’ve chatted to some of our semi-finalists to check out how they are feeling.
“I entered National Chef of the Year as I believe to be the best you need to compete in the best competition. I thought the brief gave a clear challenge to express a chef’s vision and to push the bar. Finding out I was in the semi-final was a great feeling, but naturally it gives a rush to perform. On the day I hope to cook to my best potential and feel happy to see my plate go as I wanted. NCOTY gives me a platform and I can freely express to the world what I want to say through my cuisine. I want to focus on my semi first as I did dream a lot about the MasterChef professional title and got very sad in crashing out. I learned from that so I just want to focus on each stage as its coming.”
Bobby Retnakumar Geetha – Head Chef, Restaurant Associates
“I entered NCOTY as I thought it would be an interesting experience. I think this year it's a good brief but Choux pastry stumped me for a while. When I found out I was in the semi-finals I was speechless, scared, excited and shocked, everything really. I just can't wait to get into the kitchen and cook and see what happens next. Winning would mean a lot. It would be a great honour. I've been in kitchens over half my life so it would be a nice thing to have to show for all that work.”
Philip Harrison – Head Chef, Anglesea Arms
“This is my 5th time of entering, I enter a lot of global competitions and enjoy the competition scene and this is a major competition, one of the best. Deep down I feel I can win this. I think the brief is well thought out to showcase classical skills all chefs should be able to execute. I was nervous waiting to find out if I had made the cut, and very pleased to be named as a semi-finalist up against some of the industry’s best chefs. I enjoy the semi-final cook off, as it is a fast paced, intense cook off where I get to show off my skills and flavours, it takes a lot of organisation beforehand, and practice to ensure I cook to the best of my abilities on the day. I also enjoy the day to meet up with chef friends and judges who I have been competing with for years previous. Winning the competition has been a goal of mine for some years now, to be named among some of the previous winners such as Simon Hulstone, Russell Bateman, Larry Jayasekara and Alyn Williams would be career defining for me.”
Simon Webb – Head Chef, Restaurant Associates
“It is something I have been wanting to do for some time but this year I felt I was ready to enter. I like challenging myself and this for sure is a massive challenge. I thought it was a very simple brief which will really test our basic skills and also push us to create something exciting from such humble ingredients. As it was my first year entering the competition I really didn't expect to get through so I was absolutely thrilled when I heard. I am looking forward to meeting the other competitors and seeing what they have created with the same brief. You can give the same brief to several chefs and everyone will take it a different way and create something totally different. I am also looking forward to really pushing myself, there will be a lot of pressure to perform on the day, both with the time restriction and with the judges watching. I am really not expecting to win, there are so many talented chefs in the competition and many of them have entered it before so they have a lot more experience than me. But of course I want to win, I would not have entered if I didn't. It would be amazing to win; I can’t even imagine what it would be like.”
Jenny Warner, Head Chef, The Thomas Cubitt
“I entered NCOTY because of where I’m at in my career, I want to start being more recognised in the industry and hope the hard work will pay off. I think it was a great brief which makes people think about seasonality and great British products. It’s amazing to be one of the chosen 40 and I feel it's already an achievement to be in the semi-final. Winning would be like the cherry on top of the cake and will exceed a career by 300%.”
Greg Olejarka, Executive Chef, Grain Store Café & Bar
“I entered a couple of years ago and it was great fun. The brief allows us to explore our own food but keeps us to some guidelines so that we're all on a fairer playing field. I was excited to be in the semi-final as I didn't get the chance to enter it last year as I was too busy in a new job role. I am looking forward to competing against like-minded chefs, all trying to achieve the same goals as myself. I would be honoured to win and be on a very exclusive list of great chefs who have won it in the past.”
Andrew Birch, Head Chef, Fishmore Hall Hotel
“I entered the competition as I like to always push myself to improve in all areas, I enjoy meeting the other competitors and judges as I believe this also helps to widen my knowledge and enables me to reach my goals and to strive for better results for myself and my customers. The brief is challenging in that it levels the playing field somewhat by calling on competitors to show basic skills done impeccably to achieve the desired results. Chefs need a knowledge of how dishes should be cooked to achieve the perfect result in the case of the risotto, the butchery of the chicken will need to be exemplary and the attention to detail and the science behind the choux pastry for the perfect crispness desired. All of this coupled with the ethical sourcing of the ingredients and the focus on wastage and seasonality proves very challenging.
To reach the semi-finals is always a great achievement, the feeling that your dishes have been deemed worthy of a place by your peers and professionals at the top of the industry is a great feeling. I am looking forward to reproducing my dishes in an extremely challenging environment, to meeting my fellow semi-finalists and the judges but mostly to just enjoying the day and producing the best food I can to give myself as best a chance that I can to reach the final. To win would be the pinnacle of my career so far. To know you have challenged yourself as hard as you can and to come out on top, to know you have been judged by the best in the industry and succeeded and to be able to walk away with the title that so many great chefs have done before would be a very hard thing to beat!”
Neil Yule, Executive Chef, Sodexo