Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth has been appointed to chair of the judging panel of the National Chef of the Year competition for 2020 to 2021.
The winner of The Caterer's Catey Chef Award and Restaurateur of the Year – Independent in 2019, Ainsworth has replaced Gary Jones, executive head chef of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, who held the position for three years.
The annual contest is organised by the the Craft Guild of Chefs. It likes to change the chair of judges to evolve the competition and encoruage chefs to enter.
Competition organiser and vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, David Mulcahy, said: “Paul has been on the judging panel in the past and has helped us to discover some amazing winners. He has shown real integrity in his judging style and will bring a wealth of experience to what’s regarded as the UK’s biggest culinary challenge. We’ve already started working with him on the plans for the year ahead and we are excited by what he’s set to bring to the competition.
Ainsworth is the chef-proprietor of a collection of businesses in Pastow, Cornwall including he Michelin-starred No 6, Caffe Rojano, Padstow Townhouse and Mahé Cookery School. He previously worked in the kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and the late Gary Rhodes.
He said: “I am absolutely committed to this role and believe it’s important to lead from the top so my judging will be honest, firm and honourable. As head judge, I’ll be watching semi-finalists and finalists closely during the cook-offs and making sure the team of judges are working hard throughout the two hours to find the right winner.
"The full brief [for this year's competition] will be revealed next month but I’ll be going back to basics so that all the chefs need to think about, is making food that is truly delicious and showcases their own style, skill and flair.”
The National Chef of the Year awards was launched in 1972 and it has helped accelerate the careers of Alyn Williams, Gordon Ramsay and Mark Sargeant. Last year's winner was Steve Groves of Roux at Parliament Square London.
This year’s contest opens in February. Chefs who would like to be notified of the details when entries open should email firstname.lastname@example.org.