Fifty years after the first ever National Chef of the Year was crowned, ten chefs have been given the opportunity to take this prestigious culinary title in the event’s golden anniversary. After being whittled down to 40 semi-finalists, the chefs have been creating an amuse bouche style signature dish that reflects their own favourite style of cooking or cuisine to try and get one of these sought-after spots. The dishes were presented to the judges via video where chefs explained their thinking behind the dish and why it was important to them.
The top ten has been confirmed by this year’s Chair of Judges, Kenny Atkinson.
• Cleverson Cordeiro, head chef, Adam Handling Limited / Frog by Adam Handling, London
• Ben Drake, head chef, The Elephant Restaurant, Devon
• Iain Gourlay, head chef, Cringletie House Hotel, Scottish Borders
• Ashok Kumar, head chef, Atul Kochhar’s Hospitality Group, Petts Wood
• Ben Murphy, head chef, Launceston Place Restaurant, London
• April Lily Partridge, sous chef, The Ledbury, London
• Matthew Smith, head chef, Inver Restaurant & Rooms, Argyll & Bute
• Adam Smith, head chef, Gravetye Manor, West Sussex
• Gary Townsend, head chef, One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow
• Grahame Wickham, head chef, The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
In the cook-off at Le Cordon Bleu next month, the chefs will serve up their three-course menu from the initial entry stage, taking into account any seasonal tweaks. The starter may be a fish, seafood or vegetarian dish worthy of this special anniversary and judges will focus on the sourcing, provenance and sustainability of the ingredients used. For the main course, chefs should use British or Irish venison and incorporate more than one element whether offal, a secondary cut or prime cut. The dessert brief was left wide open and is simply a warm or cold dessert for a grand finale which provides balance to the menu and has a clear wow factor.
Chair of Judges, Kenny Atkinson said:
“Since taking over as Chair, I’ve made it clear I wanted to see chefs pushing boundaries and so I gave them the opportunity to really showcase their creativity with my brief. I’ve loved seeing the huge variety in dishes, especially in the main courses and it’s been fantastic to see the different ways chefs interpreted this sustainable dish and how they have ensured the starter and dessert created a balanced menu. The video stage was also fantastic to watch as I really felt that I got to know so much more about each chef and why they created the dishes they did. It is going to be an incredible final and if the food tastes as good as it looks, it’s going to be a very tough year for us judges.”
Before the final, the chefs will enjoy a mentor experience at Royal Ascot on Tuesday 6th September where they will come together with Young National Chef of the Year finalists and sponsors for a full day of culinary inspiration. The final will take place at Le Cordon Bleu London on 19th September with the winner being revealed at a VIP event at The Berkeley, the same evening.
Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and food innovation & sustainability director, Sodexo UK and Ireland, David Mulcahy commented:
“We have ten very strong chefs in the final; some have made it to this stage before and for others it is their first time. The judges have been blown away at each stage of the competition and I’ve got a feeling that’s going to be the same in the final. The video entries we’ve just judged were incredible and exceeded all our expectations; it allowed us to really understand the chefs’ ways of thinking and some of the videos were very moving. Our judging is extremely rigorous, and we’ve used different judges at each stage which has allowed us to find ten outstanding candidates, one of whom will walk away the winner in our golden anniversary year.”