Craft Guild of Chefs awards National and Young National Chef of the Year
The Craft Guild of Chefs has crowned the winners of two of the hospitality industry's most lucrative competitions, with two talented UK chefs taking home the coveted titles of National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) and Young National Chef of the Year (YNCOTY).
The winners were unveiled at a red carpet VIP event last Thursday (21 October) at the Everyman Cinema in Broadgate, London, following some of the most intense cook-off battles the competition has seen in its history.
The final brief was for each chef in the NCOTY contest to tell their pandemic story through food. Menus had to include a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the KNORR® Future 50 Foods list. These ingredients have been identified with the support of the WWF as having a positive impact on the environment, by improving the diversity of the crops we consume as well as having excellent nutritional credentials. The main course focused on supporting British suppliers on land and at sea with a dish incorporating both meat and fish, whilst desserts had to reflect the start of the pandemic, when ingredients were sparse, and households turned to baking for comfort.
Gillingham-based Thomas Swaby, former head chef at the luxury Inverlochy Castle, won the NCOTY compeition with a three-course menu including a starter of roasted maitake chawanmushi, mushroom ketchup, roasted maitake, nasturtiums, pickled enoki and mushroom tea; followed by a main of British suckling pig with Orkney scallop, burnt apple puree, spinach, Chardonnay vinegar mash, apple, shallot and pig sauce; concluding with a dessert of sticky toffee pudding.
Swaby, who is soon to take on a six-month role in the Caribbean, beat close compeition from Adam Smith, sous chef at Gravetye Manor, who came a close second; as well as Ben Boeynaems, executive chef at The Beaumont Hotel, who came third.
On his win, Swaby commented: "Earlier this year, Paul Ainsworth created a thought-provoking brief which tackled many important issues. I was most excited about the Future 50 Foods starter as the pandemic has encouraged us to find new ways of cooking and eating and it’s important we all address the issue of sustainability. National Chef of the Year is the most prestigious cooking competition in the UK and that is reflected in the quality of the judges we cook for so winning this title is an absolute privilege.”
Daniel Cornish, senior chef de partie at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is the latest chef to join the Young National Chef of the Year ‘hall of fame’.
Cornish earned the title with an impressive menu of Scotch broth served with a spelt bread and celeriac purée, fish and chips with pickled cockles, mushy peas and a curried rouille and a pear and macadamia crumble with a set ginger custard.
Sous chef, Matt Nicholls who works at Cheal’s of Henley in Warwickshire, was announced as the runner-up; with Stephen Naylor, junior sous chef at Restaurant Story, taking third position.
For the cook-off, finalists presented a three-course menu centered around ‘British themed dishes’ with a twist, including a modern vegetarian or vegan version of a classic Scotch broth. Using inspiration from Knorr’s Future 50 ‘Beans and Pulses’ and ‘Cereals and Grains’ categories, judges were on the hunt for an innovative approach and for chefs to elevate the humble broth to a fine dining experience. The main course gave chefs the chance to present their own take on a classic British fish and chips using a prime fillet of haddock or cod from Seafood from Norway. Finalists then had to create their own interpretation of the classic crumble using seasonal fruits for dessert.
Chair of judges, Hrishikesh Desai, executive chef/food and beverage manager at Gilpin Hotel and Lake House commented: “I loved designing this brief which allowed the chefs to really show us their creativity and elevate some simple British classics to a fine dining stage.
"Whilst many admitted to finding the brief challenging, all the finalists rose to the occasion and the variety of dishes we saw across the competition was really inspiring. This made it an extremely close final where we had to look at every little detail including cleanliness and organisation. However, Daniel cooked three consistently beautiful dishes which were well-balanced, and the flavours were fresh, light and very tasty. All the finalists were supported by their mentors who had helped to prepare them well for such a big competition. There’s no doubt our industry is in great hands with a bright future.”