The prestigious chef competition, which opened for entries today (8 April), is looking to learn about each competitor and capture the essence of what the past year has meant for them through their menus.
Each chef will have to prepare a three-course meal with every course to have its own theme taking into account a different element of what they have experienced.
“Whilst the NCOTY competition’s focus is very much about moving forward, this year’s brief encourages chefs to reflect on the last year and tell their own personal story through food,” says vice president of The Craft Guild of Chefs and culinary ambassador at Sodexo UK and Ireland, David Mulcahy.
“There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered in history for generations to come and we want to capture those memories via three delicious dishes.”
Competitors will be tasked with creating a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the Knorr Future 50 Foods list. These ingredients have been identified as having a positive impact on the environment, by improving the diversity of the crops people consume as well having excellent nutritional credentials.
For their main course, chefs will need to incorporate both fish and meat of the competitor’s choice in a dish that must reflect their passion for helping high quality, local, British producers.
Finally, the dessert must explore those memories from the start of the pandemic; when food items were sparse, and families came together to invigorate a love of cooking and baking using raw ingredients.
Entries must be received by 31May, with 40 chefs invited to the second stage, where they will have to create a further dish for one of just 10 places in the final.
The final cook-off will take place in London in September.
The judges will be looking for a twist on great British classics that bring a sense of comfort during difficult times.
“When looking at the competition this year, we discussed the highs of the 2020 event and explored which elements we could keep and develop to ensure NCOTY stays relevant and exciting,” says chair of judges Paul Ainsworth.
“This year the brief gives chefs more freedom than ever to create a menu that is personal to them, to their love of food and their style of cooking. I’m a huge believer in telling a story through food and can’t wait to see the creativity on display as these menus come in and learning about the chefs’ personalities through their food.
“The winning menu is one I want to see go down in history as a true reflection of the part food has played in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The menus the chefs create for the entry process will be what they serve up for judges if they make it to the final.