The annual competition – which asks chefs to prepare dishes for a pre-agreed themed banquet ‒ will this year be held in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s chosen ‘great Britons’, as part of the monarch’s 90th birthday year.
Dishes will be required to suit the event, which is set to take place at the House of Parliament, and be inspired by the Queen’s reign itself. Many of the Britons to be honoured have received OBEs, MBEs, CBEs or the BEM for commitment and courage within their community, charity, or the military.
Set to air on BBC Two, the 2016 series will see the highest mark ever achieved by a chef during the initial heat rounds, according to the BBC, with the top score awarded to a newcomer in the contest.
The regional heats will be judged by a stellar chefs’ panel including Daniel Clifford, Simon Rogan, Phil Howard, Richard Corrigan, Michael O’Hare and Angela Hartnett, who are themselves competition veterans with a galaxy of Michelin stars between them.
The final two chefs in each region will then be judged by the familiar trio of restaurant critic Matthew Fort; British cook and food campaigner, Prue Leith; and restaurateur Oliver Peyton. Each week, they will be joined by a guest judge, including food writer Amol Rajan, restaurant critic Grace Dent, food writer Tim Hayward, and food journalist Rosie Birkett.
Worswick (formerly of Thornton Hall, Wirral and now The Latymer, Pennyhill Park) is set to compete for the North West, Bateman (Colette’s at The Grove, Hertfordshire) for London/South East, Handling (of The Frog, London) for Scotland, and Patel for the North East.
Overall there will be three chefs in each initial regional heat, also featuring the South West, Northern Ireland and Central.
Peyton said: “The chance to cook at the Palace of Westminster is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The competition this year is intense; the chefs sense how well they need to cook. As a result, the quality of the dishes produced is outstanding, world class.”
Leith added: “The chefs are competing to cook for people who have gone above and beyond to help others or to help their country, and I think these Great Britons really inspired them. British cuisine has changed so much in my lifetime and also in the lifetime of the competition, and in this year’s competition the chefs never cease to astonish us by creating the most beautiful food.”
Last year's contest, which culminated in a banquet in honour of the Women's Institute, saw chefs Richard Bainbridge, Matt Gillan, and Michael O'Hare reach the final.
FULL LIST OF COMPETING CHEFS BY REGION
- Michael Bremner, 64 Degrees, Brighton
- Adam Handling, The Frog, London
- Ally McGrath, Osso, Peebles
- Josh Eggleton, The Pony and Trap, Chew Magna
- Jude Kereama, Kota, Cornwall
- Chris Wheeler, Humphry’s at Stoke Park
- Adam Reid, The French at The Midland Hotel, Manchester
- Kim Woodward, The Savoy Grill, London
- Matt Worswick, Thornton Hall, The Wirral (now at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park)
- Adam Bannister, Slice, Swansea
- Andrew Birch, Fishmore Hall, Ludlow
- Phil Carmichael, Berners Tavern, London
- Danny Gill, The Flitch of Bacon, Essex (now at The Bell at Coleby in Lincolnshire)
- Andrew Scott, Restaurant 56, Farringdon
- Daniel Smith, The Ingham Swan, Norfolk
- Russell Bateman, Colette’s at The Grove, Hertfordshire
- Mark Froydenlund, Marcus, The Berkeley Hotel, London
- Ronnie Murray, Hix Restaurants (now at Peckham Manor)
- Chris Archer, The Cottage in the Wood, Cumbria
- Tommy Banks, The Black Swan at Oldstead, North Yorkshire
- Mini Patel, The Pointer, Buckinghamshire
- Mark Abbott, Midsummer House, Cambridge
- Eddie Attwell, Ardtara Country House (now at St Kyrans County Cavan, Eire)
- Chris McGowan, Wine & Brine, Country Armagh, NI