The Newcastle-based chef takes over from Paul Ainsworth, who has overseen the judging for the influential Craft Guild of Chefs-run competition since 2020.
“National Chef of the Year is a competition which I have both competed in and judged throughout my career, so to be asked and named chairman of judges is an absolute honour,” says Atkinson, whose Michelin-starred House of Tides restaurant is currently ranked fourth on BigHospitality’s list of the best places to eat in the UK.
“When I think of the names that have judged this prestigious competition over the years it fills me with huge pride, and I have some big shoes to fill.”
“NCOTY is an amazing competition for chefs of all levels to showcase their skills on a platform like no other. I’m looking forward to following the hard work that the previous judges have done to bring a new dynamic to this competition and to help showcase the amazing talent we have in this country.”
Young National Chef of the Year
There has also been a leadership change at Young National Chef of the Year (YNCOTY) with Lisa Goodwin-Allen taking over from Hrishikesh Desai following his three-year stint as chair of judges.
Goodwin-Allen is best known for her current role of executive chef at Northcote but also oversees the menu at The Game Bird restaurant at The Stafford London hotel.
“It is a great honour to be chosen to be the new chair of this prestigious competition which is very high acclaimed throughout the industry, and I look forward to the challenge ahead," she says.
"Over the next two years, I want to really inspire young chefs to look at the quality of ingredients and flavour and tell a story of who they are with their dishes.”
Evolving and moving forward
Planning is already underway for both competitions, with further details on the briefs to be revealed in the spring.
“We’ve had some incredible chairs of judges in recent years including Paul Ainsworth, Gary Jones, Clare Smyth and Philip Howard but it’s vital we keep changing the leadership so that the competitions evolve and move forward," says organiser of the both competitions David Mulcahy, who is food innovation and sustainability director at Sodexo UK and Ireland.
"Each chair has brought something different to the contest whether that’s been their thinking behind the brief or how the judging is completed. Kenny and Lisa are huge ambassadors in the UK culinary scene and have both judged for us for many years as they recognise the role these events have to play in developing chefs’ skills. We can’t wait to work with them even more closely over the next two years; I know it’s going to be an exciting time for the competition.”