The search to discover who will be crowned the next National Chef of the Year is underway as the Craft Guild of Chefs has opened the entries for this year’s competition.

Over the last 44 years, the UK’s most prestigious and respected culinary competition has shone a spotlight on the fresh talent coming out of kitchens. Previous winners such as Gordon Ramsay, Alyn Williams and Mark Sargeant, have demonstrated how it helps fast-track careers and put winners firmly on the map, and on the path to Michelin stars.

For the first stage of the contest, competitors are required to produce a creative lunch menu for four guests that could be cooked-up within two hours. The menu must consist of a risotto starter of the competitor’s choice; a main course using a whole chicken, with appropriate accompaniments and a choux pastry dessert of choice.

David Mulcahy, vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of the National Chef of the Year competition, said: “I always feel a sense of excitement on launch day as the brief for this year’s competition is unveiled and the buzz about the competition begins once again. Whether you have entered this competition before or are considering putting your skills to the ultimate challenge for the first time, I’d recommend entering. You just never know how far it could take you. This competition is not based on a chef’s personality or past triumphs but simply on culinary skills, interpretation of the ingredients and what chefs can create when the heat is really on.”

The winning chef will receive a wide range of prizes including a culinary trip to one of the world’s top restaurants, stagiaire opportunities, equipment from sponsors and chocolate workshops.

Clare Smyth MBE, chair of judges, said: “Being known as the National Chef of the Year really is career changing. I want to encourage chefs from across all sectors to take part as it’s a fantastic platform to get your name out there. I am proud to be involved in the most respected culinary competition in the UK. We’ve created a really interesting brief for this year and I’m looking forward to seeing the menus that come in over the next few months.”

The competition is open to chefs who are 24 years or older as of April 1, 2016. Competitors may come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors and may be working in the UK or overseas.

Last year’s winner, Larry Jayasekara, sous chef at Gordon Ramsay Holdings, will never forget the moment he won the accolade. He said: “It’s something I’ve always wanted and a dream I was never going to give up on. Simply having the opportunity for your food to be sampled by some of the UK’s most well-respected judges is incredible. However, nothing can beat that moment when you are standing in a line with some of the most talented and up-and-coming chefs in the UK and it’s you that is declared as the winner. Good luck to all the chefs entering this year, whatever stage you get to you won’t regret being part of this experience.”

Chefs have until Friday, April 8, to submit their entry for paper judging via the new National Chef of the Year website at www.nationalchefoftheyear. The dedicated NCOTY site will be packed full of the latest news, advice and inspiration and will be updated throughout the competition.

A shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on May 24 following the paper judging on the 20th. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on Tuesday, June 14, and at Le Cordon Bleu in London on Wednesday, June 22. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at the Restaurant Show on Tuesday, October 4.