Meet the National Chef of the Year semi-finalists: Martin Kilbey

Taking his place in heat four of National Chef of the Year is Martin Kilbey, executive head chef at Sodexo. Before he takes his place in the final heat of the semi-finals, we wanted to put him under the NCOTY spotlight and get to know him a little better.

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

I first heard about the competition as a young chef. It was something I always associated with 2 and 3 Michelin-starred chefs, so it was never really a competition I thought I could do. The only reason I applied this year was down to the boss who said to me “The worst thing they can do is say no”. The fact I have made it to the semi-finals is a real achievement.

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

We had just done the pre-service brief and were waiting for lunch to begin. I can honestly say that I was checking Twitter whilst sending lunch. Once I saw my name on that list, I was ecstatic, especially seeing some of the other names on the list with me.

How did you celebrate your achievement?

I didn’t have much time to celebrate as I had to head up to Grantham for another cooking competition, but I did manage to sneak in a few beers that night.

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

This is the intense part now. I have been fine tuning the dishes, constantly repeating practice runs and talking to suppliers to ensure the best ingredients possible are being used on the day. I’ve also been having my colleagues taste and critic the dishes until they are absolutely on-point.

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

I enjoy the more modern touches and have been a particular fan of the work done by Tom Sellers at Restaurant Story and Ollie Dabbous, previously of “Dabbous".

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

It’s hard to describe, as there is such talent in this competition, so to hear my name called out as the winner of my heat would be intense and incredibly euphoric.

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

Like most chefs in the country, I have no rosettes or stars to my name or place of work, but I still made this list. Sometimes, you just have to throw your hat in the middle and you might be surprised with the outcome. I know I was!

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