The Craft Guild of Chefs has launched the search for the 2011 National Chef of the Year. Kerstin Kühn spoke to last year's winner, Hrishikesh Desai, head chef at the Brasserie at Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, about the benefits of the competition
You have won two of the UK's most prestigious cookery competitions, the Roux Scholarship and the National Chef of the Year. Why do you think competitions are important? Competitions are great because they force you to go outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. There are all sorts of pressures you have to deal with on the day - time constraints, a new kitchen and being watched by spectators and media - and you really learn to understand your own skills.
What sets the National Chef of the Year apart from other competitions? It's the most prestigious competition and being able to call yourself the National Chef of the Year is a really big achievement. You get to meet fantastic people and having the country's top chefs judge your food is a great opportunity. Previous winners have gone on to great things - Gordon Ramsay, Simon Hulstone - so it's a real stepping stone for your career.
How does the revised format of dividing the competition into categories - Asian/Oriental; Modern British/European; and Rest of the World/other - change the dynamic? This has opened doors for many aspiring chefs to enter this competition and showcase their cuisine. It shows that the competition recognises the huge diversity of the industry and really aims to find the best chefs in the country.
What advice can you give this year's competitors? Be as organised as you possibly can - organisation is the most important aspect in a competition. Because of the set-up in the final it's easy to get distracted by what the other competitors are doing but try to concentrate on yourself. Keep the food simple but focus on quality and flavour.