Chefs from all sectors across the UK have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of head chef, Steve Groves from Roux at Parliament Square as entries are now open for the National Chef of the Year competition.

The new chair of judges and Michelin starred restaurateur, Paul Ainsworth has collaborated in designing this year’s menu criteria. Competitors are required to produce a creative menu for two guests in two hours, celebrating the very best of seasonal summer ingredients.

Chefs must make a starter consisting of three different plates per portion, for two guests all using the core ingredient of fresh Gilt-head bream. Ainsworth wants chefs to think “San Sebastian, modern style tapas”. Each dish must use bream in a different format and must make the best use of the fish in some way. Judges will focus on how competitors have used by-products in the dish and are looking for entrants to showcase a variety of techniques in their starter. 

For the main course, chefs must create a lamb dish sourced from the UK and Ireland coastline using both a prime and offal cut, suitably garnished. Judges are looking for the best use of accompanying summer vegetables, herbs and coastline flavours to enhance the lamb. Competitors may clean, butcher and marinade the lamb elements in advance but prime cooking must be carried out on the day. The sourcing and provenance of the lamb is also important.

Finally, Paul and his team of judges are looking for a showstopping dessert of the competitor’s choice focusing on strawberries and cream. Judges will be searching for the best use of this seasonal classic with flair, innovation and creativity. 

It is recommended that chefs register for a National Chef of the Year account at straight away to read the full brief. They will then be able to update the entry and save it as they add more to it over the coming weeks. Chefs have until Friday, 3rd April, to submit their final entry and a shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on Friday 15th May. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on Monday 15th June, and at Westminster Kingsway in London on Monday 22nd June. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday, 29th September 2020.

The current National Chef of the Year, Steve Groves said: “Winning the National Chef of the Year is an incredible honour and one of my proudest moments. For me, it’s the UK’s top chef competition and the chefs associated with this event are the shining lights of our industry. The connections I made throughout and since the competition are invaluable and have been a real boost to my career.”

As he prepares to take on his first head judge role for National Chef of the Year, Paul Ainsworth added: “When considering the criteria for this year, I wanted to be able to excite and inspire chefs when they saw this brief, and I hope as you are reading it, your mind is already whirring with ideas. My advice is to make the best use of your ingredients, focus on flavour and avoid waste by using by-products. Keep it local, fresh and simple. Over the next few months I am going to be on the hunt for the best chefs and I’d absolutely love to see more females entering, so please help to make this happen by encouraging all chefs to give it a go.”

The National Chef of the Year competition is open to chefs who are 26 years or older as of 29th September 2020. Competitors may come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors and they may be working in the UK or overseas.

Organiser of NCOTY and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulch, said: “As we launch another year of competition, we are full of anticipation as we wait to see who will be throwing their chef’s hat into the mix and entering the UK’s most prestigious culinary title. Steve Groves is already proving to be an outstanding winner and former champions such as Kuba Winkowski have become true ambassadors for the competition, so this is about so much more than the cooking on the day. When Paul first told us his ideas for the brief, we knew that this would inspire chefs from across the hospitality industry. So whatever sector you work in, get involved, show us what you’ve got, and you could find you are the National Chef of the Year 2021.”