The brief for the Craft Guild of Chef's National Chef of the Year competition has been announced.
The prestigious title, which has been won by chefs including Gordon Ramsay, David Everitt-Matthias and Simon Hulstone, is open to all chefs aged 24 and over as of 1 February 2019.
The brief calls for a summer lunch menu for two guests that can be produced in two hours. It must include an egg starter of the competitors' choice, served hot; a beef main, including two cuts and cooking methods; and a dessert of chocolate tart incorporating or garnished with seasonal fruits.
The entire menu must use ingredients suitable for a spring/summer menu, and the beef must be sourced from the UK with breed, farm and maturation period outlined in the application.
Gary Jones, executive head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and the competition's chair of judges for the third year running, said: "Nothing represents nature more than the purity of an egg. It's also incredibly versatile, as well as an economical ingredient, so practise and development won't cost the earth.
"In terms of the beef task, previously everything has been cooked at speed on the day. This is a good test, but panic can set in and the final execution can be compromised. I believe we should give chefs the opportunity to prepare one element in their own environments. It will allow more care and attention to detail and the result on the plate will be more precise.
"For dessert, I wanted a task that will test the chefs and give them the opportunity to demonstrate their skill, balancing the pastry, chocolate and fruit elements.
"These tasks are achievable, familiar and most chefs will have a good knowledge of them. I'm passionate about building skills and seeing our industry become ever stronger. We have some brilliant chefs in the UK and NCOTY allows them to demonstrate their creativity and showcase their talent."
Would-be competitors have until 22 March to submit their entry on the NCOTY website before a shortlist of 40 semi-finalists is announced on 17 May. Heats will take place at Sheffield College on 11 June, and at Le Cordon Bleu in London on 18 June, while the final 10 will compete for the top prize at the Restaurant Show on 1 October.
Vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of NCOTY David Mulcahy said: "We are delighted to welcome back Gary Jones as the chair of judges. Gary has done a fantastic job over the last two years and pushed the competitors and judges to raise the bar even higher.
"With Gary's input, we've got an exciting British brief for the chefs to start working on this year and we are confident it will be a popular task that will showcase skills, creativity, innovation and culinary talent.
"We see chefs develop, both in and out the kitchen, from the moment they start working on their entries, right through to cooking in the final. Some chefs come back year after year and it's inspiring to see how much they have developed their skills at every stage."
The competition's more recent winners include Luke Selby of Hide and Kuba Winkowski of the Feathered Nest Inn in Nether Westcote (pictured above).
Winkowski said: "It took me two attempts to win the title and it was absolutely worth the wait. Hearing my name called as the champion is something I had dreamt of since I started working in the UK. The list of former winners is so impressive and to have my name added to that hall of fame was just the most incredible feeling.
"It's regarded as the hardest chef competition in the UK, but also the most prestigious, and I would encourage any chef to enter. Whatever stage you get to, you will develop and grow, not only as a chef, but as a person."