Hayden Groves, executive chef at foodservice business BaxterStorey, has taken the title of National Chef of the Year 2013.
He saw off stiff competition from seven other chefs in a tense final held this afternoon at the Restaurant Show, Earl's Court, that chef patron of the Square restaurant Philip Howard described as extremely difficult to judge.
Groves produced a three course menu of: soused Cornish mackerel, clams and passion fruit; ribeye of beef, pithivier, girolles and roasted Jerusalem artichoke; and ‘Blackberry and apple' with caramelized white chocolate.
This was his fourth year of competing in the prestigious competition, which boasts a portfolio of past winners that includes Gordon Ramsay, David Everitt-Matthias, Mark Sargeant and Simon Hulstone.
Commenting on being crowned National Chef of the Year, Groves said: "The win still needs to sink in. I have a few thanks including my great wing man and my family who have stood by me for the past four years. My girls will be glad that they have a happy daddy coming home from work today!"
It was a particularly good year for foodservice with Simon Webb, head chef at contract catering group CH&Co, placing second. The second runner up was Andrew Wright, sous chef at Restaurant 23 in Leamington Spa.
The competition was judged by: Le Gavroche sous chef Monica Galetti; competition organiser and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs David Mulcahy; chairman of judges Philip Howard; ambassador and chef proprietor of Murano Angela Hartnett; and Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar.
Mulcahy described this year's final as edge-of-your-seat stuff. "The standard was absolutely top notch this year, which I believe was helped by the mentor day we held prior to the final," he said.
"The day gave our eight contenders the chance to view ingredients and meet sponsors, bolstered by an inspirational talk and masterclass from Michelin-starred chefs Philip Howard and Alyn Williams, a previous winner of the National Chef of the Year.
"Hayden who has been a competitor in previous years and who came in the top three last year was outstanding this year, although it was a very close competition right up until the end even in the judges' room! Hayden's determination should be a motivation for all chefs to come forward and compete including our other finalists."
By winning the competition, considered one of the UK's most prestigious culinary challenges, Groves took home national acclaim and a haul of prizes, including an exclusive study trip at a three-starred Michelin restaurant in France.
On top of this, he also wins a second study trip to Norway, masterclasses with industry greats and specialist chef's products and equipment.
Making it through the paper entry stage, 44 of the UK's top chefs were this year selected to compete at a series of semi-finals in London and Sheffield in a bid to make the final eight.