Frederick Forster, head chef at Nuovo restaurant in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, has been crowned National Chef of the Year 2011 with second and third place going to Alyn Williams of The Wesbury and Hayden Groves of Lloyds of London respectively.
Forster, who has entered the competition four times and made the last eight three times, finally won over the judges following the last heat at The Restaurant Show at Earls Court 2 yesterday where the eight finalists had to prepare a three course menu from ingredients in a mystery basket.
The chef, who revealed he would have given up the competition which is run by the Craft Guild of Chefs, for good if he had not been successful this time, prepared a starter of sauteed scallops and a main of roast breast of duck with braised thigh and flavoured with smoked bacon.
Speaking to BigHospitality following the announcement of his win Forster said he'd been determined to break through this year: "I said to myself I'm not going to put myself through this again. The competition really deserves 100 per cent and you really have to focus, so it was now or never.
"I have had a lot of help from John Williams, Westminster College, my sister and my son and I'm so pleased I've done it for them too. Until now my motto has been 'if at first you don't succeed try again' and I'm glad to have done it this year."
Judges at the final this year were chefs Chris Galvin, Angela Hartnett, Vivek Singh, Philip Howard, Atul Kochhar, Gary Hunter, Mark Flanagan, Henry Brosi, Graham Hornigold and Andrew Bennett.
In a speech at the winners' ceremony, chairman of the judges Andrew Bennett said: "We have been trying to raise the standard year after year. We had some fantastic products in the mystery baskets and the result was that we pushed the level up today.
"These guys did themselves proud and they should be proud of what they did - there was some really creative stuff and innovative stuff, it was very tough making a decision."
As well as the National Chef of the Year title, Forster wins a host of prizes, including £1,500 in cash, a study trip to France courtesy of Lockhart Catering Equipment, dinner at a three-starred Michelin restaurant and two tickets to Aston Villa.
The National Chef of the Year competition is now run annually. Previous winners of the competition include Mark Sargeant, Eyck Zimmer, Simon Hulstone and Hrikesh Desai.
Finalists this year were:
- Frederick Forster, head chef Nuovo
- Alyn Williams, chef-patron, The Westbury
- Hayden Groves, executive chef at Lloyds of London, Avenance
- Craig Beacham, sous chef The Elephant
- David Bush, chef de partie, the House of Commons
- Richard Edwards, head chef at the Park Restaurant at Lucknam Park Hotel
- Joe Mccafferty, senior chef de partie, ROKA
- Simon Webb, head chef at Restaurant Associates