To enter chefs must write a menu for two guests to be served within two hours, consisting of a vegetarian-based starter, a duck and cherry combination main course, and a classic tart as a dessert.
Candidates have until 31 March to submit their menu via the NCOTY website, after which a shortlist of 40 semi-finalists will be announced on 19 May.
Two further heats will be held in June, after which ten chefs will go on to compete at the live final at The Restaurant Show on 3 October.
The NCOTY is regarded as one of the UK’s toughest cooking competitions, with previous winners including Gordon Ramsay, Alyn Williams and Mark Sargeant.
James Devine, former sous chef at Deanes Eipic in Belfast, took the title last year.
This year Gary Jones, head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, will take over from Clare Smyth MBE as the chair of judges.
Jones said: “I’ll be working with the Craft Guild of Chefs to find new and exciting ways to drive this event forward, whilst ensuring that culinary skills continue to evolve in the UK."
Candidates must be aged 24 years or older on 1 February 2017 and may work in any area of the hospitality business in the UK or overseas.