A strong line-up of finalists has been announced for both the National and Junior Chef of Wales contests, the country’s premier culinary competitions, next month.

Two former champions are included in the chefs selected to contest the finals at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC), to be held at the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales), Newport, from January 22-24, 2024.

Ryan Jones, head chef at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, is seeking to become National Chef of Wales for the second time in his career, having previously won the coveted title in 2014.

One of the nine other chefs he will be competing against is Stephanie Belcher, demi chef de partie at The Berkeley, Knightsbridge, London, who is bidding to complete a double of Junior and National Chef of Wales titles in consecutive years.

Three of last year’s finalists are back to compete again – Jamie Tully, executive chef Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen, Llanidloes;  Wayne Barnard, junior sous chef at Benito Luis, Caerleon and Matthew Owen, head chef at The Celtic Manor, Newport.

The other finalists are Angharad Rockall, head chef at Heronston Hotel and Spa, Bridgend; Joshua Morris, senior sous chef Palé Hall Hotel, Llandderfel, Bala; Rebekah Wright, sous chefs at The Celtic Manor/The Celtic Collection, Newport; Harry Paynter-Roberts, sous chef at Carden Park Hotel and Spa, Chester and William Richards, training officer with Cambrian Training from Pontyclun.

The winner will have an opportunity to attend the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026, which is being hosted at ICC Wales by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW). He or she will also win a set of engraved Friedr Dick competition knives and £250 of Churchill products.

Last year’s Junior Chef of Wales runner up, Abbie Williams, a learner at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw Campus, will be hoping to go one better in January when she will face another of the 2023 finalists, Katie Duffy, chef at The Halfway, Llanelli.

The other eight finalists making their debut in the competition are Ged Jones, chef de partie at Carden Park Hotel, Chester; Dylan Evans, commis chef at L’enclume, Cartmel; Nathan Kelly, sous chef at Spirit Restaurant, Warrington; Rhys Yorath, chef de partie at Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol; Aizel Reyes, commis chef at The Celtic Collection, Newport; Rosie Koffer, chef de partie at Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen, Llanidloes; Kye Roberts, chef de partie at Dm Catering, Milford Haven and Sam Everton, junior sous chef at Y Seler, Aberaeron.

The winner will get an automatic seeding in the semi-final of the Craft Guild of Chefs’ 2024 UK Young National Chef of the Year competition, will have an opportunity to attend the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026 and win a set of engraved Friedr Dick competition knives and £100 of Churchill products.

CAW president Arwyn Watkins, OBE, said: “The quality of the chefs is phenomenal which is what we want for the top culinary contests in Wales. Both finals are going to be very competitive and I can’t wait to see these talented Welsh chefs displaying their skills.”

The WICC brings together craft chefs, craft butchers and front of house staff to compete in three days of competitions. The event will be open and free of charge to the public and hospitality trade.

Entries are now being accepted for all the WICC classes. Details can be found at https://www.culinaryassociation.wales/welsh-international-culinary-championship-2024 Entries close on Monday, January 15.

The 2024 WICC is the launchpad for the road to Wales hosting the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026 at ICC Wales.