Meet your National Chef of the Year heat 2 semi-finalists

We are one heat down in National Chef of the Year but there are still three more heats to come in London on the 18th June 2019. We’ve been getting to know the semi-finalists battling it out to win heat two and gain a final spot.

Stefan Sewell, Team Captain Combined Services Culinary Arts Team (CSCAT)

Stefan Sewell works at Worthy Down Barracks as a defence chef instructor and CSCAT Captain. He first heard of the competition when his friend David Davey-Smith entered a few years ago, and he was inspired from then. When the semi-finalists were revealed Stefan was away on holiday with his family on a cruise. After they arrived at port he received messages from fellow semi-finalist Liam Grime, so his holiday got even better. With a busy schedule at work, Stefan has been managing his time whenever free to practise and get focused on the event.  He has been fortunate to work with some inspirational chefs within the military and they strive off each other’s success. Stefan is very excited about his menu and is so honoured to be able to produce his dishes to the calibre of judges on the national stage. Stefan is a mad Ipswich Town Fan, even though in recent years it is nothing to be proud of. He collects a club football shirt from every country he visits.

Arturo Granato, head chef, Club Gascon

Arturo Granato is head chef at Club Gascon. Whilst he knew about the competition, he hadn’t thought about entering before. However, this year, Club Gascon received an email reminding them about the deadline. Arturo felt that this time he wanted to be part of it so decided to enter. He was at work when he first discovered he had made it into the National Chef of the Year semi-finals, and it was a nice surprise as he wasn’t expecting it. When he received a Twitter notification, he told us it was a great feeling. To prepare for the final Arturo is training, cooking and tasting all the dishes at every opportunity. There isn’t just one person who has inspired his career, but he feels all the chefs he has worked with have been an inspiration for him in different ways. The dish he is most looking forward to serving to the judges is his main course, as he has taken inspiration from his home country, Italy with the ingredients, colours and flavours. Hearing his name called out as a finalist will probably be one of his best achievements and the most emotional moment of his professional life. 

Olivier Geyer, culinary executive head chef, Cuisine Solutions

Olivier Geyer is the European culinary executive head chef at Cuisine Solutions. He has been living in the UK for a while now and always seen the prestigious NCOTY competition. After seeing the judging criteria for this year, he decided to apply. When he heard he had made it through to the semi-finals, Olivier was actually on the Eurostar travelling back to the UK after a week working away in Paris. He quickly text his wife, Sam and called friends, colleagues and family to share his news. Raymond Blanc, Joel Robuchon and Prof. Bruno Goussault are his biggest inspirations when it comes to cooking and his career. Ahead of the cook-off, Olivier is most looking forward to cooking the perfect poached egg. Working for a food scientist and experimenting on a daily basis, he has discovered the perfect temperature to cook an egg and just loves the texture and precision. If he was to make the final, Olivier feels it would be a great achievement, however, he respects the other chefs he is competing against and knows there are some truly amazing competitors in that heat. When he does get some downtime, Olivier loves fly and predator fishing.

Daniel Jones, head chef/co-owner, JT@3

Daniel Jones is head chef and co-owner of JT@3. He first heard about the competition after seeing ads on the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Facebook and Twitter feeds and he remembered hearing stories about the competition as he worked through the ranks from chefs including Andre Garret and Stephen Terry. He always told himself that when he knew he was ready for the competition, he would enter. Hearing he has made the semi-finals has made him focus more on the competition, but he won’t be celebrating this achievement until, if and when, he makes the final round. Daniel admits that Stephen Terry has been the biggest inspiration in his career so far but it’s about more than his style or amazing ability to cook. It is his work ethic and morals and all the stories he’s shared with Daniel about his chef experiences and his honesty about real chef life. These have had the biggest effect on his daily working decisions and choices.

When it comes to the big day Daniel is most looking forward to serving up his main course. It is inspired by great memories of family and friends enjoying BBQ’s in the summertime. It didn’t matter if he was a chef or not, BBQ’s were his Dads thing, so he couldn’t go anywhere near the cooking. He said “We never had the best steaks as a kid, so for my main course in NCOTY I’m trying to use the best beef ‘welsh wagyu’, pairing this with flavours of a great BBQ whilst showing off some chef skills and paying homage to the humble cheap cuts that I grew up on. I will be humbled if my name is called out as there are some great chefs competing so to be named in the top 10 will be a massive honour.”

The decision to open his restaurant and events company in Pembrokeshire, Wales in 2017 wasn’t part of his plans. Sadly, his father died in the summer of 2017 from cancer and it came out of the blue. It led Daniel to take the risk to make something for himself in Pembrokeshire so that it was viable for him to work and live closer to his family as they all dealt with what happened. He added: “We have grown from strength to strength and out of such grief we have created something to be very proud of.”

Ben Addems, senior CDP, Restaurant Interlude

This is the first year of entering National Chef of the Year for Ben Addems as it’s the first time he has truly felt ready to go for it. He loves that the winner is voted for by industry leaders and that’s mainly what attracted him to entering.

When the semi-finals announcement came out Ben was actually in the gardens at work foraging for that evening’s service. Over the last few weeks he has been practicing before and after work, nailing down flavours and timings. Different people have inspired him at different stages of his life but both Jean Delport and Ruan Pretorius from Restaurant Interlude have pushed, taught and are taking him to a level as a chef that he’s always wanted to be. 

The dish he is most looking forward to serving up is the Beef Fat and Bitter Chocolate Tart with Rhubarb. I think the flavours are slightly unusual but work amazingly well together, the smokiness from the rendered down beef fat complements the bitterness from the chocolate and tartness of the rhubarb. 

We asked Ben to tell us something the NCOTY followers may not know about him. He revealed: “I have Crohn’s Disease and have only been cooking professionally for around four years. Before that I was working on building sites before re-training as a chef. Cooking was always a passion of mine, and when I was hospitalised with my illness, my ex-partner pushed me into following my passion whilst I was recovering. I enrolled at my local culinary college and the rest is history.” 

Ben Howarth, national executive development chef, Thomas Franks Ltd

Ben first heard about the competition a few years back when he was working in the kitchens of Le Manoir. This is somewhere that heavily focuses on growing their chefs and constantly pushing them to achieve their goals. He told us: “Entering competitions was one of the great ways they encouraged new challenges for the chefs there. As for what attracted me, I’d say it was simply a case of timing really. I saw the entry details via Instagram and thought to myself “What have I got to lose?”. 

In preparation for the final, Ben is practising whenever he has time. He has focused heavily on sourcing his ingredients, by doing farm and orchard visits and taste test after taste test.

Ben has had the opportunity to work for and alongside some great chefs, each and every one of them imparting some priceless knowledge along the way and inspiring him endlessly. Narrowing the list down to just one inspiring chef was impossible, however, Ben admits that if he had to choose then Raymond Blanc would most probably be right near the top.

Out of all three courses, Ben is most looking forward to serving his starter, telling us: “I like this dish very much, purely for its simplicity and honesty. It’s a flavour combination we’re all familiar with and tastes great because of it. I am certainly not reinventing the wheel with this dish, but simply cooking with well sourced ingredients and treating them properly.

Ben admits he will probably feel shocked if his name is called out as a finalist as he didn’t expect to make it to the semi-finals, so anything else would be incredible! You may not know that Ben used to work in a small appliance shop, fixing toasters and hoovers for an ex-Man Utd football player. He’s still handy with a Phillips screwdriver now!

Who else is competing in this heat?

We are looking forward to tasting the dishes from Ben Boeynaems, head chef at The Zetter Hotel, Fraser Bruce, head chef at The Halsetown Inn, Lewis Linley, sous chef from Vacherin and Santosh Shah, executive chef at Baluchi.

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