The 2014 Craft Guild of Chefs' National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) competition has been boosted with the appointment of Clare Smyth of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea as co-chairman of the judges.
The chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant will support chairman and head of judges Phil Howard in the run-up to and during the heats and final of the annual competition for chefs over the age of 24.
Smyth, a previous judge of the competition, said she was thrilled to be asked to take on a more formal role for National Chef. "I think it's a brilliant competition and I am delighted to be involved in maintaining its high standards while helping to drive it forward. It is such a well-respected accolade, which has been won by many incredible chefs."
While Smyth has always stressed the importance of judging chefs on ability and not on gender, her appointment undoubtedly underlines the fact that few female chefs enter the competition. Indeed, a female chef is yet to win.
"National Chef has always been judged on merit, however the number of female applicants, out of the 140-plus that enter every year, is disappointingly low," she told Caterer. "I would love to see more females taking on that competitive spirit and getting involved."
Speaking more broadly about entrants the competition, Smyth said that Britain boasted many gifted chefs who should consider entering the competition.
"Some people may think that you have to be a seasoned competition chef to enter National Chef of the Year, but it is open to anyone. I can think of many great chefs around the country who would be outstanding in this competition. It is the perfect platform for them to raise their profile.
"Ultimately, I welcome the opportunity of offering my support to preserve the legacy of this competition, and make sure that the spotlight continues to shine on our country's talented chefs."
Fellow judge Howard, chef-patron of the two-Michelin-starred the Square restaurant, said: "To have Clare join the National Chef of the Year team is of huge significance to the competition and as co-chair of the judges a huge privilege for me. The energy put into the organisation and running of this competition is immense, but having a chef of the calibre of Clare commit to its cause can only help insure that it continues to go from strength to strength."
David Mulcahy, craft and food development director at Sodexo, and competition organiser and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, which runs National Chef of the Year, commented: "We are absolutely delighted to have a chef of Clare's standing and technical skill joining our already stellar line-up of judges for this event.
"To have her exacting standards alongside those of Phil Howard, who so brilliantly directs the proceedings, will only serve to make this competition stronger. The Craft Guild is very proud to have her working with us on this coveted competition."
National Chef of the Year has been running since 1972 and is one of the most respected titles in the industry. The current National Chef of the Year, Hayden Groves, is executive chef for BaxterStorey, and leads a whole host of past winners who have gone on to have glittering careers including Michelin-starred chefs Alyn Williams, Simon Hulstone, David Everitt-Matthias and Gordon Ramsay.
Competition entry forms are available from 1st February when chefs will have until 11 April to submit their entries for a three-course lunch menu for four people.
The initial paper judging of the entries takes place on 12 May, followed by semi-finals at Sheffield College on 10 June and Le Cordon Bleu, London on 25 June. The live grand final takes place on 7 October at the Restaurant Show in London.
To apply, visit www.craftguildofchefs.org and download an application form.
NCOTY ROLL CALL 2013 Hayden Groves
2012 Alyn Williams
2011 Frederick Forster
2010 Hrishikesh Desai
2008 Simon Hulstone
2006 Eyck Zimmer
2004 Steve Love
2002 Mark Sargeant
2000 Bruce Sangster
1998 Kevin Viner
1996 David Everitt-Matthias
1994 Lou Jones
1992 Gordon Ramsay
1990 Roger Narbett
1988 Mark Gregory
1986 David Pitchford
1984 Robert Mabey
1982 William Stafford
1980 Ken Whibley
1978 Paul Brady
1976 Eddie van Meille
1974 Bryan Price
1972 Pierre Jacquemin