This year's National Chef of the Year finalists have been announced, whittled down from 33 to just 12, who will go on to cook at CORD by Le Cordon Bleu in London.
The final will be aired at a VIP red carpet premiere at the Everyman Broadgate cinema on 21 October as well as being live streamed.
The 12 chefs who have made it through to the final are:
- Marc Billings, head chef, Prestwold Hall and Hall Barns at Prestwold, Leicestershire
- Ben Boeynaems, executive chef, the Beaumont, London
- Ross Brown, chef de partie, BaxterStorey, London
- Iain Gourlay, head chef, Cringletie House hotel, Scottish Borders
- Elliot Hill, head chef, Panoramic 34, Liverpool
- Christopher Niven, executive chef, Marine North Berwick, East Lothian
- Russell Plowman, senior sous chef, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Perthshire
- Stefan Sewell, head chef, RAF, Suffolk
- Jack Shaw, head chef, Lexington/Savills, London
- Adam Smith, sous chef, Gravetye Manor, Sussex
- Thomas Swaby, head chef, Inverlochy Castle, Fort William
- Gary Townsend, head chef, 1 Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow
The chefs will serve up their original menus from the entry stage which saw each chef tell their story of the pandemic through food. Menus will include a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the KNORR Future 50 Foods list. The main courses focus on supporting British suppliers with a dish incorporating both meat and fish, while desserts will reflect the start of the pandemic, when ingredients were sparse and households turned to baking for comfort.
Chair of judges Paul Ainsworth said: "What a final we've got ahead of us with this incredible top 12! There have been some truly creative and delicious looking dishes demonstrated in the first two stages of the competition and we can't wait to taste them in the next round. This is the UK's toughest culinary competition and any chef who puts themself forward in these challenging times deserves the utmost respect and recognition. I'm so honoured to support these 12 chefs as the chair of judges and can't wait to find the next winner. That chef is certain to go down in history with their winning menu reflecting the toughest times our industry has ever faced."
Before the cook-off, finalists will enjoy a mentor experience at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 8 September along with the Young National Chef of the Year finalists.
Vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs and food innovation and sustainability director, Sodexo UK and Ireland, David Mulcahy, said: "It's been another challenging year for the competition. We've had to tweak and adapt it to make it happen, but we've never lost sight of the vision, heritage and importance of this competition in our industry. It's given chefs hope and focus when they really needed it and now we have something wonderful to celebrate over the coming weeks.
"It was such a dynamic group of chefs that entered this year, our judges really struggled to get it down to just 10, so after much deliberation we agreed to take 12 chefs through to the final. We hope the whole industry will be watching the live stream of the final as the next National Chef of the Year is crowned. I can't wait to discover which of these talented, determined and resilient chefs that will be."
Alex Hall, executive chef at Unilever Food Solutions, added: "We are really looking forward to seeing the vegetarian starters the chefs serve up using ingredients from the Future 50 Foods list. It's important as an industry that we work together to promote sustainability and the National Chef of the Year competition is the perfect platform to raise awareness. All chefs have a duty to use ingredients responsibly and by cooking with ingredients from the Future 50 Foods lists, these NCOTY finalists are leading the way in influencing chefs to cook, for a better food future."