Meet the National Chef of the Year semi-finalists: Nat Tallents

It’s set to be an exciting set of semi-finals on Tuesday and we can’t wat to see what all the chefs cook up for our incredible panel of judges. But before that important clock starts ticking in the kitchens of Le Cordon Bleu, we wanted to catch up with Nat Tallents to find out more.

Tell us how you first heard about the competition and what attracted you to enter?

I have known about the competition throughout my chef career and followed it each year. Up until last year I had never entered as I didn’t have the confidence. The last few years I have gone through a massive learning curve, both personally and professionally, and it seemed the right time to put myself forward and enter.

The establishments I work for have no awards or rosettes, and we don’t chase accolades, but we have a strong reputation for good food. The food is simple and fast as we serve up to 600 covers per day, over two sites. Entering this competition gave me some creative energy to make my own food, my way, without the day to day restrictions. I absolutely loved the process!

Where were you when you first discovered you had made it into the National Chef of the Year semi-finals? 

When the results of the semi-finals came in I was sat talking to my boss. When I read my name on the shortlist I stood up and didn’t know what to do. The next thing my partner rang me and was screaming down the phone and I had absolutely no words as I was so overwhelmed. It was something I wanted so badly, but I was shocked to get through.

How did you celebrate your achievement?

After spending the rest of the day at work and absolutely buzzing with excitement I went to the beach with my partner and friends. I hadn’t told anyone I had entered the competition, so it was a good chance to chat about the dishes I entered.

How are you preparing for the next stage of the competition?

Since finding out I got through, I have been practising my dishes on days off and feeding them to friends and family. I think they’ll be glad of a break from it after the semi-finals!

Who has been your biggest inspiration in your career so far?

My biggest inspiration is my first head chef, Tim Bilton. He took me on as a commis with no training or knowledge. Working for him gave me massive foundations and a huge skill set, becoming his head chef begrudgingly in just 18 months. He sparked something in me that forged a career and a path I had never planned. To have him appear eight years later in my restaurant at the other end of the country and say he was proud of what I’ve achieved was an amazing moment. I am very grateful for those early days and all he did for me.

Which part of the menu are you most looking forward to serving up and what was your inspiration for this dish?

I think I am most looking forward to making the starter. As this was an open brief I really enjoyed coming up with a vegetarian dish. I named the dish after my girlfriend as she is a vegetarian/partly vegan and it really is her favourite bit of a roast! I have really pushed the vegetarian and vegan food where I work as I love the challenge of it. Making vegetables the hero on a plate is such a reward and I wanted to do something that utilised the whole of one vegetable as I really hate food waste.

How will you feel if your name is called out as a finalist?

I am the most understated excited person ever. I’m not one to jump around or scream, so if I was called out for the final I’m not sure what I would do. I would feel excited, nervous and potentially speechless. However, I would definitely have the biggest grin you have ever seen!

Tell us something that followers of the competition may not already know about you.

I took part in MasterChef The Professionals in 2012, but a young, inexperienced me and a massive rabbit got me knocked out after the classics round with Michel Roux Jr. On the plus side, he said I prepped my rabbit perfectly. It’s just a shame the rest of it was a flop.  

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