Meet the National Chef of the Year semi-finalists: Aaron Ashmore

Aaron Ashmore

Aaron Ashmore is the head chef at Clarette - Chateaux Margaux and is already familiar with what it feels like to compete having been a MasterChef The Professionals semi-finalist when he was just 21 years of age. He will be competing in heat three of National Chef of the Year and before he gets cooking we wanted to learn more about him.

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

I’ve known about National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) for a few years and always thought, ‘I should enter that and see how I do’ but I never actually followed it through! This year I want to stay positive and smash as many goals as I can, learn as much as I can and not just say I’m going to do something but actually go and do it.

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

Funnily enough, being a chef, I was at work. At first a part of me thought ‘ahh well, maybe next year’ when I hadn’t heard back, then I read I was accepted and was proper chuffed to be part of this next stage.  

How did you celebrate your achievement?

I wouldn’t say I celebrated with being at work, but the lunch and dinner service was rocking and super smooth. The team and myself were smashing it, which was awesome!

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

I’m currently running through timings, prep lists and most importantly putting it into practice with trial tests to make sure any mistakes I make are made now and not when it’s game time. However, I also need to have peace of mind and confidence in what I’m putting on the plate, so I am questioning everything. Is it good enough? Is it efficient enough? Am I working tidily enough? There’s always areas of improvement at every stage.

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

I’ve worked with a number of incredible chefs but the one name that instantly comes to mind is Diego Cardoso. Having his help and guidance working side-by-side for years has been a highlight of my career so far. Being able to think positive, get things done and embrace a team ethic is what we are about.

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

I’m sure everyone will say the main course here as it’s the biggest part of the meal and could make or break your chances of getting through. However, I would say the starter is the dish I’m looking forward to most. Simplicity is key and flavour and precision seasoning is what will separate good dishes from great dishes.

The starter is the first dish that will represent myself so it’s extremely important to get it right. I am inspired through the seasons and using classic flavours. Fantastic produce should speak for itself…little is more so they say!

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

Blown away! It’s a massive competition and an opportunity that lots of others only wish to have. To be selected so far is an achievement already, so to have my name called out will be insane! 

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