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Craft Guild of Chefs begins pursuit to find top UK chef

Just four months after crowning James Devine as the winner of National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) (pictured), the search to find the next champion gets underway.

NCOTY is regarded as the toughest but most prestigious culinary challenge in the UK, with chefs competing in a series of exciting rounds, culminating in a live final at The Restaurant Show. Every stage is completed under the watchful eyes of some of the most well-respected chefs in the world.

The competition is open to chefs who are 24 years or older on February 1 this year. 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.

To enter National Chef of the Year in 2017, chefs need to produce a creative menu for two guests to be served within two hours. The menu must consist of a vegetarian based starter, a duck and cherry combination main course and a classic tart as a dessert. Competitors will put their own interpretation on each dish with a strong focus on seasonality and sustainable sourcing of ingredients.

The competition is famed for its long list of illustrious winners and experienced panel of judges with 2017 being no exception. Gary Jones, head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons has been revealed as the new Chair of Judges, taking over from Clare Smyth MBE.

David Mulcahy, Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of NCOTY said “Gary has been involved with the competition for many years and we are thrilled that he is overseeing the judging panel. This competition moves up a gear every single year and with Gary at the helm we are confident this will continue.

'The NCOTY committee has created an interesting brief for the online entry stage and we’re looking forward to seeing how different chefs interpret it. Whatever stage you get to in this competition, you will learn from the experience and take away new ideas that will help you develop as a chef.”

Speaking about his new role, Gary Jones stated, “I am delighted to be the Chair of Judges for NCOTY. It’s a competition that has been won by so many talented chefs, has an incredible panel of judges, and receives fantastic support from media, sponsors and partners.

'I’ll be working with the Craft Guild of Chefs to find new and exciting ways to drive this event forward, whilst ensuring that culinary skills continue to evolve in the UK. It’s this focus on skill which makes the NCOTY title so credible, and one that so many chefs across the UK aspire to win.”

After taking the title in 2016, James Devine, commented, “I was encouraged to enter NCOTY by my employers and having seen the record of winners, I knew that I wanted my name on it next. As soon as the entry process started I threw myself into the competition and used every spare minute I had to ensure that my name was called out as the winner last October.

'When you look at the calibre of judges at each stage, you know you’ve truly earned your place on that list. I’d recommend all chefs give themselves the opportunity to be part of this competition and enter.”

Chefs have until 31 March, to submit their entry and a shortlist of 40 chefs for the semi-finals will be revealed on 19 May. This year’s heats will take place at Sheffield College on 6 June, and at Le Cordon Bleu in London on 20 June. Ten chefs will go through to the National Chef of the Year final, which takes place at The Restaurant Show on 3 October.