The Craft Guild of Chefs has not let COVID-19 stop them finding ten truly talented chefs to make the National Chef of the Year final this year. Significant changes were made to the competition to ensure that despite the pandemic, chefs had the opportunity to win the UK’s most sought-after culinary title. After 40 chefs were selected last month, the judges have now whittled them down to just ten for a cook-off at Le Cordon Bleu, London next month.
The ten chefs making the final are:
- Derek Johnstone, head chef, Borthwick Castle, East Lothian
- Fraser Bruce, head chef, Fraser Bruce @ The Fish Shed, St Ives
- Nathan Cornwell, head chef, The Barn at Moor Hall, Ormskirk
- Sarah-Jasmina Moussabih, head chef, Finnish Embassy, London
- Marcin Pomierny, head chef, The Maids Head Hotel Limited, Norwich
- April Lily Partridge, chef, The Ledbury, London
- Nick Smith, head chef, Vacherin / Ashurst, London
- Dominic South, head chef, Corinthia Hotel, London
- Ben Drake, senior sous chef, The Elephant by Simon Hulstone, Torquay
- Thomas Swaby, senior sous chef, Roux At Parliament Square, London
With the semi-final cook-offs unable to take place this year, the finalists were selected by taking into consideration the marks from both the entry stage and the dishes which summed them up in just two to three bites. Both rounds of the competition were judged by a separate panel of judges to make sure the rigorous judging process which NCOTY is famous for remained throughout 2020. With guidance and advice from some of the most respected chefs in the industry, the final decision on who went through was made by Chair of Judges Paul Ainsworth and organiser of the competition, David Mulcahy.
To take the title next month, chefs will have to impress Paul Ainsworth, chef patron at Paul Ainsworth Collection, Clare Smyth MBE, chef patron at Core by Clare Smyth, Niall Keating, executive chef at Whatley Manor and Claude Bosi from Bibendum Restaurant in Chelsea.
Despite restrictions, the industry will still be able to watch the cream of chef talent battle it out for this career-changing title. The actual cook-off takes place on the 7th September at Le Cordon Bleu but the format for the final has been reinvented with the streaming of an hour-long show during Hospitality Week that offers insights into how chefs have navigated this challenging year.
Organiser of the competition, David Mulcahy, said: “There is no doubt that finding a way to make sure the National Chef of the Year competition could still go ahead has been challenging. But as organisers, we have always remained determined to ensure the competition’s heritage could be maintained and that the industry had a positive success story to come out of this. Chefs have faced some real battles along the way, even to put an entry in, but we have seen huge resilience, determination and passion from these chefs to turn adversity into positivity. Whilst we have had to tweak how the final is run, many things remain the same. We have ten brilliant chefs cooking for the best judges in the industry and what a special winner they are going to find. I really hope that on the 30th September, chefs in kitchens across the UK tune in to support the competitors and watch the final and the live announcement. There has never been a more important time for the industry to come together in this way and show everyone how much talent our culinary scene has to offer.”
Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth added “My decision to ask the chefs to create a dish that summed them up in just a few simple bites was to help me learn more about the chefs and their style of cooking. I wanted to see great plates of food that showed skill, creativity and innovation but also each chef’s passion and determination to take the top spot. This additional round gave us so much insight and inspiration to help us find that all important top ten. We also considered the scores they received in the first round as ultimately it is those three dishes that we will be tasting in the final. I’m confident we have an amazing line-up of finalists from some incredible establishments and businesses. I can’t wait to taste the dishes in a few weeks’ time as ultimately that’s what this competition is all about.”
Make sure you are supporting the chefs in the final by joining the Craft Guild of Chefs for the live streaming at 1pm on Wednesday 30th September followed by the big reveal of the winner at 2.30pm. Look out for updates on www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk and the Craft Guild of Chefs social media channels.