Delving deep into the National Chef of the Year brief


The National Chef of the Year brief was revealed just three weeks ago and there’s been lots of discussion on social media about this, with it getting a thumbs up from chefs. Right now, chefs up and down the UK are busy planning their menus based on the series of challenges set by chair of judges, Gary Jones. To help competitors to understand Gary’s mindset we caught up with him at our sponsors launch last week to get his thinking behind this year’s brief.  


Why did you decide to set an egg-themed starter?


I believe that nothing represents nature more than an egg, but this is going to lead to many questions for the chefs as they plan their menus. Which type of egg? What breed of poultry? Which direction should their dish take? What seasonal flavours should be used? How can I impress a judge with my take on the humblest of ingredients?
My view is this task gives the freedom for every single chef to show their skill in cooking the perfect egg dish. Practise makes perfect when it comes to competing and the egg is a very economical ingredient giving chefs the opportunity to practise and develop dishes that won't cost the earth to create.  


The main course is a little different this year, can you tell us more about it?


We’ve created an enticing beef task for 2019 that is designed to be accessible. I would like the competitors to prepare a braised element of this dish in advance to see the diversity of the braising cuts; heart, shin, Jacob's ladder, brisket, cheek, oxtail, short rib, silverside etc. By preparing an element in advance, it gives semi-finalists more time on the day and allows every chef the chance to show what they can do in a restaurant situation. It will also reduce the panic and rushing of tasks at the expense of quality and execution, which is ultimately what we want to see. The second cut should be a prime piece of the beef and the protein content should not be above 120g combined weight. This allows the vegetable/plant-based elements to balance the protein.


You have chosen a chocolate tart for dessert, why was this?


For the dessert we needed a task that will test our chefs; one that gives the opportunity to demonstrate their skill level. This pastry task, under pressure 'against the clock', is a great leveller and everyone will have to practise this to perfect it for the judges. The seasonal fruit must marry well with the chocolate content and the bitter-sweet balance will need to be on point. 


All the National Chef of the Year tasks are achievable and familiar and most chefs will have a good knowledge of them. The trick is to be in the final ten after the semi-final and to do that their dishes will need to stand out from the rest. It will be the individuals that blow the judges away on flavour combination that will succeed.

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