Thomas Swaby crowned National Chef of the Year 2022

21 October 2021 by
Thomas Swaby crowned National Chef of the Year 2022

Chef Thomas Swaby was crowned the Craft Guild of Chefs' National Chef of the Year earlier this evening at a VIP screening of the final competition cook-off at the Everyman Cinema in Broadgate, London.

More than 150 guests watched as Swaby wowed the judges with his three-course menu, including a starter of maitake chawanmushi, mushroom ketchup, roasted maitake, nasturtiums, pickled enoki and mushroom tea. His main was a British suckling pig with Orkney scallop, burnt apple puree, spinach, Chardonnay vinegar mash, apple, shallot and pig sauce, followed by a dessert of sticky toffee pudding.

Swaby was formerly head chef at Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, but will shortly be taking up a new role in the Caribbean for six months.

Finishing very closely behind in second place was Adam Smith, sous chef at Gravetye Manor in East Grinstead, Sussex, with Ben Boeynaems, executive chef at the Beaumont hotel in London, in third place.

The brief for the final was for each chef to tell their story of the pandemic through food. Menus had to include a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the Knorr Future 50 Foods list, which have been identified as having a positive impact on the environment by improving the diversity of the crops we consume as well as having excellent nutritional credentials.

The main course had to focus on supporting British suppliers on land and at sea with a dish incorporating both meat and fish, while desserts were asked to reflect the start of the pandemic, when ingredients were sparse and households turned to baking for comfort.

Swaby said: "Earlier this year, Paul Ainsworth created a thought-provoking brief which tackled many important issues. I was most excited about the Future 50 Foods starter as the pandemic has encouraged us to find new ways of cooking and eating and it's important we all address the issue of sustainability. National Chef of the Year is the most prestigious cooking competition in the UK and that is reflected in the quality of the judges we cook for so winning this title is an absolute privilege."

Chair of judges Paul Ainsworth said: "When I set this brief, it was hard to know what kind of dishes we'd be tasting at the final as the criteria was so personal to each chef, all of whom are on their own culinary journey. I left it open to interpretation as I wanted to see how the chefs demonstrated their style of cooking, personality, and creativity. This not only led to some amazing cooking, but these menus will truly go down in history, highlighting the incredible culinary talent we have here in the UK. Choosing the winner went down to the wire but Thomas gave us everything we were looking for; three delicious and stunning plates of food, a real focus on sustainability and loads of passion coming through his dishes."

Vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs and food innovation and sustainability director at Sodexo UK and Ireland, David Mulcahy, added: "Whilst running a competition during a pandemic has been challenging, it's led to some exciting changes which have improved the overall experience for the competitors. Holding the final behind closed doors, ahead of a VIP screening, created a calm, more relaxed and focused final which gave chefs and judges the time to absorb everything and look at every detail. We carefully selected a dynamic team of judges some of whom have been part of the panel for many years, for others it was their first experience of the event. The 12 menus and impressive finalists created a real buzz in the kitchen with lots of debate on such a diverse range of dishes."

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