60 seconds with former NCOTY, Mark Sargeant
With the hunt for this year’s National Chef of the Year officially underway we caught up with former NCOTY and ambassador for Young National Chef of the Year (YNCOTY), Mark Sargeant to find out more about his experience and what he thinks of this year’s brief.
1. So many chefs are eager to hear their name called out as the new National Chef of the Year but it’s something only 25 chefs have experienced. Can you tell us a little more about what that moment feels like?
Yes you're right. The anticipation is incredible. Both exciting and excruciating in equal measures. Personally, at the time I couldn't believe it. I was saying my name in my head over and over to will them to say it but when they did I was caught completely off guard. It's a great feeling and one which I will always cherish.
2. What is it that makes the National Chef of the Year competition so special?
It's a competition for young chefs who are really just at the start of their game. Lots of young cooks are eager to do well but only a handful have the nerve and skill to enter this competition. Those that do leave with a huge sense of achievement even if they don't win the top prize.
3. At the moment there will be many chefs busy planning their menus for the paper entry stage, what advice would you give to them?
The same thing I always say. "Keep it simple". Show off your skills, knowledge and taste but don't go too crazy trying to show off. We are looking for class in this competition.
4. This year’s brief says the menu must consist of a risotto starter of the competitor’s choice; a main course using a whole chicken, with appropriate accompaniments and a choux pastry dessert of choice. What’s your thought on the brief this year?
I think it's fantastic. I personally want to test the candidate’s classical skills along with more contemporary techniques and with this year’s brief there is nowhere to hide.
5. What advice would you give to someone who is entering for the first time?
Enter to enjoy yourself and relish the time you have in the competition. Obviously you want to do well and even win but really and truly if it's your first time just relax and get a feel for how it all works. At worst you will have an amazing time and at best you might win.
6. And finally, what is it that the judges will be looking for when they are sifting through over 100 menus in May?
Lots of cups of coffee! It's hard to translate a piece of paper into a plate of food so if you aren't great at writing get someone who is to help you. I personally think you can tell a lot from someone based on how professional their paper entries are so do your best homework.
Be in it to win it!
You could be the next chef to join the hall of fame but you only have until 8th April to send us your entry. Register now to get involved.