Judges for the Craft Guild's National Chef of the Year competition have revealed who will be taking part in this year's semi-finals ahead of the final showdown in October.
A total of 40 chefs (full list below) have been chosen to progress after submitting a spring/summer menu containing a ‘perfect egg dish starter' served hot; a beef main course including two cuts with two cooking methods; and a chocolate tart incorporating seasonal fruits.
The contestants were whittled down from more than 100 applications from across the industry - with semi-finalists including restaurant, hotel and foodservice chefs.
Each will now battle it out in four heats - the first taking place in Sheffield on 11 June and the following three being held at Le Cordon Bleu in London on 18 June. The trial will be judged by 27 top chefs, including Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Josh Overington, Alyn Williams, James ‘Jocky' Petrie, Hywel Jones, Ben Tish and Stephen Terry.
Only the winner of each heat will be automatically seeded into the final on 1 October, while the following six places are offered to the highest scoring chefs across all heats. The successful chefs will compete in the final at the Restaurant show, where the 2019 National Chef of the Year will be crowned to succeed last year's winner, Kuba Winkowski of the Feathered Nest Inn in Nether Westcote, Oxfordshire.
At the end of the judging session, Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons executive chef Gary Jones said: "There were some exciting dishes and flavour combinations and it was fantastic to see some classics approached with an innovative, modern style.
"With improvements in technology and some brilliant food photography, we got to see plenty of detail at this stage and I am confident our judges are in for a real treat when it comes to tasting.
"Many of these judges have scored the first round for several years and all commented on the effort that our chefs had gone to, both in terms of thinking creatively and working on their sourcing with suppliers. That's one of the reasons I included two cuts of meat in the main course as I was intrigued to see what chefs brought to the table, but they have truly risen to the challenge of this year's brief."
Organiser of the competition and vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulcahy, added: "Despite the industry facing challenging times and chefs being busier than ever, it was inspiring to see an increase in entries this year and I completely agree that it's the best set of entries that we've seen at this stage.
"The National Chef of the Year is growing and developing year on year and continues to be a title that all competitive chefs want to win. However, regardless of who takes the crown, it provides so many opportunities and I hope these 40 chefs grab this chance and enjoy connecting with some of the biggest names in the UK culinary scene."
Heat 1 • Marc Billings, sous chef, Prestwold Hall
• Nick Edgar, head chef, the Ryebeck hotel
• Scott Fairweather, head chef, The Black Swan, Ravenstonedale
• Derek Johnstone, head chef, Borthwick Castle
• Daniel McGeorge, head chef, Rothay Manor
• Marcin Pomierny, head chef, the Maids Head hotel
• Matthew Ramsdale, senior sous chef, the Chester Grosvenor
• Rohan Wadke, head chef, Gilpin Hotel & Lake House
• Aled Williams, head of food, TRUEfoods & CHEFStable
• Daniel Griffiths, sous chef, Portmeirion hotel
• Ben Addems, senior CDP, Restaurant Interlude
• Ben Boeynaems, head chef, the Zetter Hotel
• Fraser Bruce, head chef, the Halsetown Inn
• Olivier Geyer, culinary executive head chef, Cuisine Solutions
• Arturo Granato, head chef, Club Gascon
• Ben Howarth, national exec development chef, Thomas Franks ltd
• Daniel Jones, head chef/owner, JT3
• Lewis Linley, sous chef, Vacherin
• Stefan Sewell, Team Captain Combined Services Culinary Arts Team (CSCAT)
• Santosh Shah, executive chef, Baluchi
• Jake Burton Stewart, junior sous chef, the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn
• Charles Coulombeau, head chef, Gravetye Manor
• Liam Grime, military chef, Combined Services Culinary Arts Team (CSCAT)
• Harry Kirkpatrick, sous chef, Trinity Restaurant
• Mehdi Lahmadi, junior sous chef, Coworth Park hotel
• Martin Lee, head chef, Hartwell House hotel
• Renemar Pinedo, sous chef, the Feathered Nest Country Inn
• Jack Shaw, head chef, Lexington Catering
• Robert Sussex, senior sous chef, ISS
• Adam Thomason, executive chef, Genuine Dining Company
• Adam Degg, head pastry chef, Kerridge's Bar & Grill
• Steve Groves, head chef, Roux at Parliament Square
• Karl O'Dell, head chef, Texture
• Ashley Randle, head chef, the Hambrough hotel
• Jozef Rogulski, executive head chef, the Stafford Hotel London
• Nick Smith, head chef, Vacherin/Ashurst
• Robert Taylor, chef/owner, Compasses Inn
• Matthew Waldron, head chef, Park House restaurant
• Christopher Willis, hospitality head chef, BNP Paribas
• Jonathan Zammit, executive sous chef, Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa