With previous winners including David Everitt-Matthias, Simon Hulstone, Luke Selby and even Gordon Ramsay, the National Chef of the Year is among the industry's most respected cooking competitions.
Last month, former Inverlochy Castle head chef Thomas Swaby was crowned National Chef Of The Year following one of the highly respected cookery competitions ‘closest ever’ battles, with Gravetye Manor sous chef Adam Smith taking second place and The Beaumont Hotel executive chef Ben Boeynaems taking third place.
Each chef was asked to tell their story of the pandemic through food. Menus had to include a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the KNORR Future 50 Foods list. These ingredients have been identified with the support of the WWF as having a positive impact on the environment, by improving the diversity of the world’s crops as well as having excellent nutritional credentials.
The main course focused on supporting British suppliers on land and at sea with a dish incorporating both meat and fish, while desserts had to reflect the start of the pandemic, when ingredients were sparse, and households turned to baking for comfort.
“Earlier this year, Paul Ainsworth created a thought-provoking brief which tackled many important issues. I was most excited about the Future 50 Foods starter as the pandemic has encouraged us to find new ways of cooking and eating and it’s important we all address the issue of sustainability,” says Swaby. “National Chef Of The Year is the most prestigious cooking competition in the UK and that is reflected in the quality of the judges we cook for so winning this title is an absolute privilege.”
“When I set this brief, it was hard to know what kind of dishes we’d be tasting at the final as the criteria was so personal to each chef, all of whom are on their own culinary journey,” says chair of judges Paul Ainsworth. “I left it open to interpretation as I wanted to see how the chefs demonstrated their style of cooking, personality, and creativity. This not only led to some amazing cooking, but these menus will truly go down in history, highlighting the incredible culinary talent we have here in the UK.” Vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs and food innovation & sustainability director, Sodexo UK and Ireland,
David Mulcahy said that while running the competition during a pandemic has been challenging, it had resulted in some exciting changes which have improved the overall experience for the competitors.
“Holding the final behind closed doors, ahead of a VIP screening, created a calm, more relaxed and focused final which gave chefs and judges the time to absorb everything and look at every detail,” he says.
“We carefully selected a dynamic team of judges some of whom have been part of the panel for many years, for others it was their first experience of the event. The twelve menus and impressive finalists created a real buzz in the kitchen with lots of debate on such a diverse range of dishes.”
The National Chef Of The Year is run in partnership with KNORR Professional and supported by CCS (Continental Chef Supplies), Churchill, Rational, Valrhona and Le Cordon Bleu.