David Mulcahy is the corporate events organiser for the Craft Guild of Chefs, which has just launched the call for entry for the 2010 National Chef of the Year competition. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about some major changes that have been introduced to the event this year
Caterer What's the National Chef of the Year all about?
David Mulcahy It's the leading chef competition in the UK and is open to working chefs over the age of 24 and reflects the top end of the market. It has over time been responsible for showcasing some of the UK's leading talent and has helped launch the careers of some of the UK and Ireland's top chefs. Launched in 1972, it has been a biannual event until now, but from this year onwards it will run every year.
Caterer You've lost the headline sponsorship with Knorr this year. How has this affected the competition?
DM Knorr is still involved as a sponsor, just not as the headline sponsor. They have been very helpful over the years to continue the quality of the competition but since they reduced their sponsorship we have been able to review things and bring in some changes to reflect the evolving restaurant industry.
Caterer What changes have you introduced?
DM We have brought in categories to encourage more ethnically diverse cuisines to be part of the competition. A total of 40 semi-finalists will be selected through a paper judging process and will compete at four semi-finals, each concentrating on a different type of cuisine including Asian and Oriental; modern British and Irish; European; and African, American and Australian. Ten chefs will go through to the final: the top two from each semi-final and the two chefs with the highest scores after that.
Caterer Why have you made these changes?
DM To reflect the changing restaurant industry and its increasing diversity. There are some amazing chefs working at restaurants such as Roka or Zuma who wouldn't normally be inclined to enter the National Chef of the Year competition because historically it has been dominated by French or British cooking. We wanted to change that and make it more open.
Caterer What else is new?
DM We have also introduced the Young National Chef of the Year title. We will invite 10 young chefs who have done well in other competitions to a cook-off which will be held on the same day as the National Chef of the Year final.
Caterer What advice can you give competitors?
DM The one thing I'd really like to say is that even though the high-end nature of the competition can put some people off entering, it is open to everybody and it's a great platform to showcase your skills.
The National Chef of the Year competition will culminate in a final to be held at the Restaurant Show in London on 11 October 2010. The closing date for entrants is 28 May. For further details, contact Clair Bowman on 01293 610329.