Meet the National Chef of the Year semi-finalists: Terry O’Riordan

Each year, we announce our semi-finalists heat by heat, live on Twitter. So many chefs are frantically sat refreshing their newsfeed as each tweet is shared. This was the case for our latest semi-finalists who had to wait until the final tweet was announced to see his name on the shortlist. It was definitely worth the wait though and we can’t wait to taste Terry’s dishes in heat four of National Chef of the Year next week.

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

I first really heard about National Chef of the Year when I joined Compass Group UK & Ireland in 2015. I was asked by my executive chef at the time, James Buckley, to enter Hotelympia. When entering the Live Salon Culinaire I started to win and I achieved a number of ‘best in class’ and gold medals over the next three years in various different salons. However, it was at Hotelympia 2018 that I was approached by one of the judges and he recommended that I take my competition entries to the next level and go for NCOTY. 

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

It was Friday afternoon and I was mid-service with my team when the names started being announced on Twitter. I will remember that until the day I die and the feeling of thinking “well there is always next year, it’s a process, it was a long shot getting in on my first year” as the names came rolling out.

By the time heat three had been published and my name was nowhere to be seen, I had resided myself to the fact I had not got in. It was during this time I was calling a check when my pastry chef yelled “chef you’re in!” I was the 40th name announced out of the list of 40.

How did you celebrate your achievement?

I went for a drink (or five) with my team after calling my wife and mum to tell them to check the list but scroll down all the way to the bottom.

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

My biggest inspiration is a chef called Trevor Hand. He guided me through the early stages of becoming a senior chef, developing me to become a head chef which lead to a group chef role. Trevor became a mentor to me, teaching me the foundations of the industry at a more senior level.

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

I have to be honest and say all three courses equally. It’s rare as a chef that your food is not only tasted but judged by chefs of such a high calibre and for an event of such a prestigious nature I could not pick just one. I am truly honoured to be a semi-finalist. 

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

That would be a dream come true. For the last few years I have watched the live finals and always thought “what if” but now being in the mix and having that opportunity it’s very exciting. If I do get through I hope that the judge pronounces my surname correctly.

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

I won three gold medals in live Salon Culinaire in one day.

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