Following two rounds of recipe creation and deliberation, the Craft Guild of Chefs has announced that twelve chefs are still in the running to be crowned the National Chef of the Year winner. Throughout the day, the finalists have received a celebratory bottle of champagne, courtesy of Hallgarten & Novum Wines and Champagne Collet confirming their place in the final which will take place at the University of West London on Tuesday, 10th October, 2023.
In previous years, the competition has seen ten finalists make the final but the standard this year has impressed the judges so significantly that it was one of the closest semi-finals in history. Chair of judges, Kenny Atkinson requested that twelve chefs were given the opportunity to cook their dishes for the judges.
The finalists for this year are:
• Alex Angelogiannis, The Glenturret Restaurant by Lalique
• Ben Boeynaems, The Beaumont Hotel
• Charlotte Vincent, The Candlelight Inn
• Cleverson Cordeiro, Frog by Adam Handling
• Grahame Wickham, Guards Polo Club
• Jethro Lawrence, Apetito UK
• Karl O’Dell, The Monarch
• Mark McCabe,The Ethicurean
• Matthew Smith, Inver restaurant
• Paul Leonard, The Forest Side
• Ruth Hansom Rigby, Swinton Estate
• Simon Webb, BaxterStorey
Two chefs have also been confirmed as reserves for the final, Yiannis Mexis from Hide and Jozef Rogulski from The Stafford.
In addition to entering their original three course menu, which they will now serve up to the judges in the final, the chefs had to create an innovative, vegan, signature dish based on the theme ‘One Humble Ingredient’. Competitors also had to answer a series of questions from the judges exploring why they chose to enter their dishes and what winning would mean to them.
Chair of judges, Kenny Atkinson said:
“It was absolutely fascinating to watch the videos and see how each chef celebrated their one humble ingredient. The standard of dishes was genuinely mind-blowing from the semi-finalists and so when we put the scores from both rounds together, we had a real challenge on our hands. As chair of judges, I knew I needed to taste the dishes of every single one of these finalists which is why we’ve increased the number of chefs still in the running. The results have been so close to call in both judging rounds so I would say to every chef who hasn’t made it through to try again as you’ve absolutely risen to the challenge and next year it could be you in this position.”
Competition director, David Mulcahy, food innovation & sustainability director at Sodexo UK and Ireland, commented:
“This year has already proven to be one of the most hotly contested and closely fought competitions I’ve seen in all the years I’ve organised it. Working closely with our sponsors, we’ve got an exciting few months lined up with plans for a thought-provoking and inspiring mentor day at the Waitrose Food Innovation Studio well underway. From the dishes we’ve seen in both rounds, we know it is going to be a thrilling cook-off in October.”
Current title holder, Ben Murphy, who is chef patron at Launceston Place, added:
“It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I was in the same position as these chefs as so much has happened since winning. Getting to the final of this competition is an incredible achievement but the hard work really starts now. Knowing they’ve got this far; these twelve chefs will be hungrier than ever for the title, so my advice is to put everything you have into the competition as only one of you will take it. It was and always will be a career-defining moment for me.”
The standard has been so impressive this year that those who didn’t make the final still have the opportunity to showcase their main courses. Headline partner, Lumina is inviting the semi-finalists to adapt their original lamb dish for the opportunity to take the wildcard spot in the Lumina Challenge 2024 where there is a chance to win a trip to New Zealand. All recipes entered into the Lumina Challenge will be included in their recipe collection and used in marketing material across the globe, helping to raise the chefs’ profiles even further.