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Introducing the Winners of National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year 2017

Posted on Saturday 15 October 2016

Now in its 29th year, The Restaurant Show in London continues to be the ultimate place to discover the most cutting-edge brands, trends and products in the hospitality industry, and this year incorporated the Lockhart Catering Equipment Expo for the very first time. Yet it’s also where visitors can see a piece of history being made too, as it’s home to the live finals of the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year competitions, sponsored by Lockhart Catering Equipment, which are the UK’s most prestigious culinary contests that list the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Mark Sargeant and Russell Bateman among previous winners.

After two tough rounds of semi-finals throughout this year, the ten senior and ten young National Chef of the Year finalists took their places in the kitchens in the main hall of The Restaurant Show at London’s historic Olympia, to go head-to-head in the live final on Tuesday 4th October. Visitors to The Restaurant Show watched in awe as the chefs worked against the clock to produce a three-course menu that fulfilled a strict brief, requiring them to draw out their finest culinary skills, yet still allowed them to add their own personal style to their dishes.

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To add to the pressure, they were also under the watchful eye of a panel of high-profile judges, which was chaired by Clare Smyth MBE and included Dan Doherty, Group Executive Chef at Duck & Waffle Restaurants, Jonny Lake, Head Chef at The Fat Duck, and Benoit Blin, Head Pastry Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, to name but just a few!

Meet the new Young National Chef of the Year: Ruth Hansom

While both of the competitions are equally exciting, the Young National Chef of the Year competition is where we can catch a glimpse of the future culinary landscape in the UK – indeed, savvy chefs often look to this competition to recognise emerging talent and offer unbelievable opportunities to stand-out young chefs to nurture their skills and kick-start their careers.

Unsurprisingly, the Young National Chef of the Year 2017 competition was at its toughest yet, as several previous finalists returned to the kitchens for another attempt at the title and were joined by a number of eager newcomers, all aged between 18 and 23.

Ruth Hansom #yncoty finals

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As ambassador of the Young National Chef of the Year competition, Mark Sargeant advised all of the young chefs to put together dishes that were “simple, flavoursome and well-presented”, and that was precisely what was created by Ruth Hansom of The Ritz, the winner of Young National Chef of the Year 2017 and the first ever female winner in the competition’s history.

She dazzled judges with her menu which consisted of an autumn vegetable salad and chicken liver panna cotta starter, followed by a main course of Norwegian fjord trout, smoked eel and horseradish tortellini with roast beetroot, sea vegetables and orange dressing. Rounding off her meal, she produced a stunning flourless chocolate cake with chocolate semi-freddo, malt mousseline, chocolate roasted peanuts and caramelised banana.

The moment @ruthhansom was crowned Young National Chef of the Year #YNCOTY

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As a previous runner-up of Young National Chef of the Year, Ruth was driven by her determination to finally claim the title as her own. What’s more, she was joined in her celebrations by April Lily Partridge of The Clove Club who was named runner-up; as the winner of Young National Chef of the Year 2013 she’s certainly no stranger to the competition, and the two friends shared tearful hugs to celebrate their incredible success this year. In third place was Danny Young from Northcote.

You can watch the full announcement of the winner of Young National Chef of the Year 2017 below:

We spoke to these two talented young female chefs last year on the Lockhart blog following their appearance at the 2015 Catering Equipment Expo; you can read our interview with Ruth and April here, and look out for our forthcoming interview with them to find out how they’re enjoying their success following this year’s competition!

James Devine scoops the National Chef of the Year 2017 title

Following the announcement of the new Young National Chef of the Year, it was time to reveal who the judges had chosen as the National Chef of the Year for 2017, who would be joining some real star chefs in the competition’s celebrated ‘Hall of Fame’ of culinary excellence.

Ahead of the competition, the ten finalists were presented with a ‘mystery basket’ of ingredients from which they would need to create a stunning menu worthy of the award during the live final. Resisting the pressure of the audience and judges, the chefs had to remain calm and work precisely and cleanly, along with creating their carefully planned dishes.

James Devine, sous chef Eipic, belfast #NCOTY

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Preparations for the competition had been underway for the chefs for nine months, and they paid off in triumphant fashion for James Devine, sous chef at Deanes Eipic, who was named at the National Chef of the Year 2017 after producing a simply spectacular selection of dishes that bowled the judges over.

Winning dishes - main from #JamesDevine #NCOTY

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His fantastic menu began with an appetiser of tortellini, roast chicken, butternut squash and sage veloute. This was followed by Tees Valley rib of beef, braised puy lentils and watercress, and finished off with a soft-centred chocolate and coffee tart with passion fruit curd.

As expected, the competition was exceptionally strong and the runner-up place was taken by Adam Thompson of Deloitte, Restaurant Associates, with Charles Smyth of Alyn Williams (another former National Chef of the Year) at The Mayfair. You can watch the announcement of the winner of National Chef of the Year 2017 below:

Speaking to the Craft Guild of Chefs, James said of his win: “I’m honoured, I never expected to win or to come this far. Today went well for me, I kept calm and was pleased with the way all my dishes came out. Each dish was something I’d happily eat or serve up. Right now, I feel humbled and very excited at the same time.”

The winners of both competitions not only take home the prestigious titles, but also a raft of exclusive prizes to help them to make the most of their year. That includes up to £1,200 in Lockhart Catering Equipment vouchers; memberships to the Craft Guild of Chefs; media training and even guidance to create a recipe book provided by fellow sponsor Knorr; Churchill vouchers; a training trip to Switzerland with Nespresso and even guest chef opportunities with Le Cordon Bleu.

This is just the beginning of what is sure to be an amazing and unforgettable year for James and Ruth, and we’ll be speaking with them both very soon to find out how they plan to spend it. Congratulations to our new National Chef of the Year and Young National Chef of the Year, and of course to all of the fellow finalists who deserved their place in the competition too. We’ll look forward to seeing what this year brings!