The last two semi-finals were held yesterday at the University of West London, after which David Mulcahey, vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, and Phil Howard, chair of the panel of judges, announced which chefs would progress to the final of the prestigious competition.
Returning finalists include Hayden Groves, executive chef at BaxterStorey; Andrew Wright, junior sous chef at Mallory Court Hotel and Joe McCafferty, head chef at Flesh & Buns.
They will be joined by former British Culinary Federation (BCF) Chef of the Year Simon Webb, currently head chef at CH&Co, as well as four other chefs (details below).
The full line-up includes competitors whose day jobs range from working for contract caterers or hotels to serving in both fine-dining and more casual restaurant kitchens.
Organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs, the National Chef of the Year is open to anyone aged 23 or older. Chefs from all sectors of the hospitality industry are encouraged to apply.
The competition has been going since 1972 and this year's finalists are competing to join an elite list of former winners including Gordon Ramsay, Mark Sargeant and the holder of the 2012 title - Alyn Williams.
The Square's Phil Howard, who is in his second year of chairing the judging panel, said the standard of cooking in the competition had once again risen this year. "Over the period of time that I have been judging, what I see so much more is seasonal, regional, provenance-driven cooking.
"This competition gives us an absolute snapshot of where competitive, contemporary cooking is going.
"There is nobody, out of all of the semi-finals, who is the runaway favourite - nobody has yet produced three outstanding plates of food. Anybody who gets through to the final has got to nail it and they have got a great shot of winning," he added.
Due to the large number of high-quality paper entries, this year the number of semi-finalists was expanded from 40 to 44.
Eleven chefs competed in the four semi-finals in Sheffield and London - the majority of which were focused on Modern British/European cookery, while one specialised in Asian Oriental/Rest of the World cuisine.
The participants were tasked with producing 12 plates of food - four for each of the three courses. The courses had to consist of a mackerel starter, a main of their choice and a chocolate-focused dessert.
The four semi-final winners automatically made the final, while the four chefs across all the heats who racked up the most points were also named as finalists. Andrew Wright, Joe McCafferty, David Bush and Simon Webb won their respective semi-finals.
The National Chef of the Year 2013 finalists:
- Russell Bateman, head chef, Colette's Restaurant
- Alex Bond, sous chef, Auberge du Lac
- David Bush, senior chef de partie, House of Commons
- Hayden Groves, executive chef, BaxterStorey
- Lahiru Jayasekara, senor sous chef, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley
- Joe McCafferty, head chef, Flesh & Buns
- Simon Webb, head chef, CH&Co
- Andrew Wright, junior sous chef, Mallory Court Hotel
The final of National Chef of the Year will be held on 8 October at The Restaurant Show - BigHospitality will be providing full coverage of both the show and the competition.