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Getting to know some of our NCOTY Heat 3 semi-finalists a little better

The calibre of chefs we have in the National Chef of the Year semi-finals this year is just incredible and heat three is no exception. This will take place on Wednesday 22nd June and only the heat winner is guaranteed a place in the live final. Ahead of the big day we caught up with some of the chefs taking part to find out how they feel about the competition.

“National Chef of the Year was something that coming to London 10 years ago I looked at saying ‘one day I will go for it’. That time has come! When I heard I was in the semi-finals I was very happy. It gives me a great boost to think the time I spent on the menu and ideas for the dishes has got through such hard marking from the country's top chefs. Winning is one of those things that creates a position to get the right help to put your career into another gear.”
Aidan McGee – Head Chef, The Truscott Arms

Most chefs like to push themselves but this is a great challenge that pushes you in ways you can't do alone. Cooking for some of the culinary heavyweights does not happen every day so for them to taste your food and give you feedback is a priceless experience - why wouldn’t you enter? I love the simplicity of this year’s brief. It really gives you the chance to make the dishes your own. On Wednesday I am most looking forward to the pressure you feel when you are in competition mode. It gives you a real buzz! Winning really would mean the world. It’s a competition that every chef would love to win. Just being a part of it is special but to win could be career changing!”
Adam Thomason – Head Chef, Deloitte, Restaurant Associates

“I entered in a hope to build my profile as well as the profile of the business, and also because I want to win and make my daughter proud of me so it justifies all the hours I am out of the house working! I thought the brief this year was very challenging! There were a couple of curve balls in there to say the least and, for me anyway, I really had to work at balancing the menu and coming up with the dishes. The dessert incorporating choux pastry I found especially challenging. I was extremely proud to hear I was through, and then a rush of reality hit and suddenly everything got real! The dishes are suddenly real and no longer sketches or development, they are actually a menu which I have to cook for some of the country’s most formidable chefs! I am looking forward to doing something different from the normal day at work. Making the journey to London, exposing my commis to top level competition as well as introducing him to people who up to then are only faces and names in books. The whole experience is immense! Winning NCOTY would be such an honour. It would make all the sacrifices and things I have missed out on in life due to being in kitchens worthwhile. It is an achievement that no one can take away and is there in history for everyone to see!”
Simon McKenzie, Executive Chef, The Old Government House Hotel

“I decided to enter the competition to help push my business forward. We are a small restaurant based in Essex and I believe what we are doing is unique. We are keen to promote good food and fine dining in the County and offer something different to local people. It was very interesting to see a risotto as one of the dishes as this can be quite testing. It’s great to be able to use a whole chicken and showcase it in different ways for the main course. At Haywards we try to minimise as much waste as possible and really get the most from our ingredients. It was great to see a choux pastry dessert as one of the requirements and I’m really happy with my dish. I felt very excited and privileged to have my menu chosen out of over 150 chefs and to have been recognised in this way. Winning would be a great honour. There are a lot of fantastic chefs who have previously won this. It’s one of the major competitions to be involved in and it would be amazing for my career but more importantly for the restaurant.”
Jahdre Hayward, Head Chef, Haywards Restaurant

“It’s always been a dream of mine to win NCOTY and now I finally feel that I'm ready to give it go. I thought the brief was exciting, there's a lot you can do with it, so it will be interesting to see what the other competitors do. When I first checked the list of semi-finalists I didn't see my name so I was disappointed but then I got a text from a friend to say I was in and I was so happy I couldn't believe it. I can't wait to test myself against the other chefs and see where I stand within the competition and to have my menu judged by some of the biggest names in the industry. It would be a dream come true to win such a prestigious competition and would be an absolute privilege to have my name up there with the past winners.”
Cormac McCreary, Sous Chef, The Ritz

“National Chef of the Year is a fantastic competition and it’s great to be involved. The brief this year was really good and leaves a lot to play with. I was very happy to hear the news about the semi-finals and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s dishes and getting new ideas. Just getting through to the final would be awesome, and near impossible with the calibre of chefs that are in my heat.”
James Buckley, Executive Chef, Levy Restaurants

“The National Chef of the Year competition is the most prestigious and iconic competition in Britain for chefs, and I’m very competitive! Winning NCOTY has been a dream of mine ever since I became a professional chef. I’ve been in the final for the last two years, and I would say this is the hardest brief to date. I actually don’t serve chicken as a general rule in my restaurants, so I’d say this is more out of my comfort zone than the previous briefs. I’m excited about it, it’s something a little different for me and I’m going to give the competition my all – I’ll go out kicking and screaming! I was honoured to make the semi-finals – the calibre of chefs in this year’s semi-finals is incredible. They have amazing reputations and careers that I’ve followed personally, so to be ranked alongside them is a privilege. Ultimately, my aim on Wednesday is to get to the final! But one thing I’ve loved about competing in NCOTY is that even if you don’t win, you get to meet and network with some really inspiring chefs. There are chefs that I’ve seen on TV, or follow on social media; they’re real leaders of the hospitality industry and to be in the semi-finals with them is surreal. The competition is a fantastic way of raising your own profile as a chef and for your restaurant. Winning would mean everything. It’s already been an amazing year for me, opening up my new independent restaurant The Frog, E1, and to win NCOTY on top of that would make 2016 the best year of my career so far. I’ve won some amazing awards and accolades over the years, and to add NCOTY to that list would be an unbelievable honour.”
Adam Handling, Adam Handling Restaurant Group

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