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National Chef of Wales Contest Glory for Matthew at Fifth Attempt

A Mid Wales based chef has achieved a career dream by winning the National Chef of Wales competition at the fifth attempt.

Matthew Smith, 39, who lives in New Mills, near Newtown, won a final cook-off against eight rival chefs to win the prestigious title at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC), organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campus in Rhos-on-Sea.

Smith, supported by 17-year-old commis Amy Phillips from Cheshire College South & West, Crewe, where he works as a chef lecturer, said he could not think of a better early 40th birthday present.

“It means everything to me because I have committed so much to training and developing myself and sacrificed money, time and mental health ,” he said. “This was going to be my last attempt to win the National Chef of Wales competition.

“I have put in a huge amount of work with the Culinary Team Wales, training junior members and making mistakes. Last year, I was too egotistical, thinking I was going to win the final and it gave me a kick in the teeth and showed me that I needed to listen to the advice I was given.

“It’s great that the dragon trophy has come back to Mid Wales (Nick Evans in 2006 and Neil Roberts in 2008 are previous winners). I also want to thank my commis Amy who is phenomenal.”

Smith’s winning prize was £500, a set of engraved knives from Friedr Dick, £250 worth of Churchill products and the coveted dragon trophy.

Runner-up, who received £300, was Sophie Rowe, chef de partie at Gaerwen Arms, Gaerwen, Anglesey, who achieved success in her first competition, supported by her boss Andrew Tabberner, who was her commis. Tabberner is an ex-finalist and winner of the Junior Chef of Wales title.

Colin Gray, chairman of the judges and Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) vice president, praised all the chefs for having the courage to enter the competition.

“It’s a real honour to be crowned National Chef of Wales and to have that on your CV is a massive accolade,” he said. “We have seen some great teamwork and an eclectic mix of finalists this year from different parts of our industry which has been great to see.”