Craft Guild of Chefs has announced the winners of its prestigious National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year titles after a hotly-contested cook-off held last night virtually.
After a tough competition, more than 150 guests at the Everyman Cinema in Broadgate London watched as Thomas Swaby was crowned National Chef of the Year after wowing the judges with his three-course menu that included highlights such as British suckling pig with Orkney scallop, burnt apple puree, spinach, Chardonnay vinegar mash, apple, shallot and pig sauce.
Swaby was previously head chef at Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, but will shortly be taking up a new role in the Caribbean for six months.
Finishing in second place was Adam Smith, sous chef at Gravetye Manor and in third place was Ben Boeynaems, executive chef at The Beaumont Hotel in London.
The brief for the final was for each chef to tell their story of the pandemic through food. Menus had to include a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the Knorr Future 50 Foods list.
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.
Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth commented: “When I set this brief, it was hard to know what kind of dishes we’d be tasting at the final as the criteria was so personal to each chef, all of whom are on their own culinary journey. I left it open to interpretation as I wanted to see how the chefs demonstrated their style of cooking, personality, and creativity. This not only led to some amazing cooking, but these menus will truly go down in history, highlighting the incredible culinary talent we have here in the UK.”
Also crowned last night was the winner of the Young National Chef of the Year accolade.
Daniel Cornish, senior chef de partie at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, came out victorious after the screening of the final, which was held behind closed doors at Le Cordon Bleu last month.
At the cook-off, the finalists presented a three-course menu which centered around ‘British themed dishes’ with a twist. It included a modern vegetarian or vegan version of a classic Scotch broth.
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 had to create their own interpretation of the classic crumbleusing seasonal fruits for dessert.
Cornish served up a 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 who is junior sous chef at Restaurant Story taking third place.
Chair of judges, Hrishikesh Desai, executive chef/food and beverage manager at Gilpin Hotel and Lake House commented: “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.”