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We sat down with Tom Swaby for a 2-course National Chef of the Year-winning meal cooked by himself at the commercial kitchen space in our Continental Chef Supplies London Showroom. We discussed everything from winning National Chef of the Year, to his inspiration behind the cooking. Tom started off by answering some hot topics from this year’s National Chef of the Year, as we took over Craft Guild of Chefs Instagram channel for the afternoon…

Read more from our chef insight series

Is Sourcing and Seasonality increasingly important post-pandemic?

It’s always been important for Chefs to use seasonal produce as much as we can. Even more so now with changes to the industry such as increased difficulty in obtaining European ingredients. The Knorr Future 50 selection was brilliant to have in this year’s NCOTY brief as it helped to create awareness of a more sustainable future for food.

Future50 from Knorr are finding better ways of cooking using sustainable foods, create flavours using natural, quality ingredients. With collaboration in the worldwide fund for nature (WWF), future50 are showcasing 50 foods we should eat more of to promote a sustainable global food system and a nutritious diet for all.

Had you used all of the ingredients on the Future 50 list before?

Most are used regularly by Chefs, but there were a few that weren’t very well known and this meant we had new and exciting ingredients to utilise beyond the usuals like Beetroot. It’s really interesting to try to use as many new ingredients as you can, especially with sustainability being more prominent now than it ever has been. We have to ask ourselves the tough questions; do we use too much meat and fish?

How is sustainability impacting cooking styles and menus?

If it feels natural to the restaurant to amend their food to something more sustainable then this can work really well. But I think it becomes difficult to force more sustainable ingredients into a menu if they don’t suit the ethos and style of the restaurant. For example, Eleven Madison Park makes it work very well. Knorr’s Future 50 has been a great document for the industry as they are mostly everyday ingredients as mentioned before - and it gives a wider scope for more restaurants to adopt this approach. Most importantly though for the quality of food to remain the same - it needs to be a natural progression and there needs to be balance.

Tom has prepared his National Chef of the Year winning starter on Artisan tableware and Couzon cutlery, consisting of Saffron Milk Cap, chawanmushi, pickled and roasted king oyster mushrooms with mushroom ketchup.

Do you see a different approach to Chef Welfare since the pandemic?

Yes, 100%. It’s fast-forwarded what needed to happen. It will always be difficult in our industry, as we can’t always do just 8 hours a day, due to the nature of restaurant service cycles. We did 4-day weeks at Roux at Parliament Square, which was great. But what’s really important is having the support from the senior team to enable staff to have an adequate amount of regular time-off. These issues aren’t exclusive to hospitality though, it happens across retail, banking etc as well, so I think there needs to be an important push to improve workplace welfare nationwide.

A lot of positive changes were already being made before the pandemic by charities such as HospitalityAction, and I hope this continues to go from strength to strength. Ultimately, happy staff decreases turnover and improves the restaurant.

HospitalityAction have been supporting thousands of hospitality people since 1837 who have found themselves in difficulty or crisis. Hospitality action was one of the first charities to provide grants across the UK during the pandemic. Since 2020, HospitalityAction has spent £1.36m and has awarded 4698 grants and 150k employees have reached out to them by using their employee assistance program.

Where did your inspiration for cooking come from?

My Dad used to be a Chef, and I was always cooking with my Grandma and my Dad at home. I’ve always loved it from a young age and was lucky enough to know that I wanted to pursue it as a career. My career has been varied across the UK…

I studied at East Kent College before working at The Abode in Canterbury. After then I went to Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey. Once I’d gained some more experience, I moved to London and met Steve Groves at Launceston Place under Tristan Welch.

A couple of years after Steve Groves won Masterchef, he moved to ‘Roux at Parliament Square’ and I ended up working there under his guidance. After this, I moved on to 2 Michelin Starred Gidley Park in Devon, then being run by Michael Caines.

I was then drawn back to ‘Roux At Parliament Square’ when Steve Groves became the Head Chef. During my career I think I’ve worked for Steve (Groves) on and off for about 12 years.

Finally - during the pandemic, I moved up to Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, then had the chance to go and work out in the Caribbean for the past few months…I’m now looking forward to a quieter few months whilst I decide what I would like to do next!

Tom has prepared his National Chef of the Year winning Main Course on Artisan tableware and Couzon cutlery consisting of Roasted pork belly, pork loin, burnt apple puree, spinach and chardonnay vinegar mash.

How has National Chef of the Year changed over the years?

The pandemic obviously changed the programme completely, as it was forced to move away from the Spectacle of the competition theatre at The Restaurant Show and on to a more digital format, with YouTube videos and Instagram Live reveals.

It’s great to see a competition change with the times, and I think The Craft Guild of Chefs do this every year with their ingredient choices, briefs and focus on hot topics such as Sustainability and Seasonality.

The organisers have also really done well in keeping the competition relevant during the pandemic when it could have so easily been cancelled like so many other events. This continuity has resulted in the competition becoming more well-known outside of the industry as well now, which is great for showcasing new Chefs and talent. It’s a huge testament to the organisers and sponsors that this competition has continued for as long as it has!

What was it like competing in National Chef of the Year during a pandemic?

If anything, it possibly helped me. We had a lot more space due to government regulations and (other than mask-wearing) the changes were minimal.

The previous 2 competitions were both held under certain government regulations which meant the competitors knew what they were in for by the second year. But more importantly, it meant the organisers were well-versed with how to stage the competition to ensure all competitors felt comfortable and safe - this really helped to keep the competition running.

Any advice for upcoming competition finalists?

Make sure you test and taste your dishes! It’s all about flavour. This isn’t about the bells and whistles of something like the Great British Menu - it’s about flavourful food that hits the brief; whether that’s’ sustainable farming, local produce, seasonality or Knorr’s Future 50. Even if you don’t feel confident, I would say that it’s worth any Chef entering…as every stage of the competition gives you great experience and you’ll only improve as a Chef.

Click here to register for next year's NCOTY.


The National Chef of the Year 2021/22 finals took place at Le Cordon Bleu, London with the announcements being broadcast on Thursday 21st October 2021. Watch the announcement recordings


Continental Chef Supplies supply premium and fine dine Tableware to the Hospitality Industry and host regular cooking demos from their London Innovation Centre featuring a commercial kitchen and mixology area, alongside the UK’s largest display of Tableware.

CCS have sponsored the National Chef of the Year for over a decade and provide culinary trips for previous winners. 2022 will see CCS take the past 3 winners away on a culinary trip to Obsessions in Northcote, with fine dine cuisine from Alex Bond, Hrishikesh Desai and Simon Rogan. Find out more about their London Showroom


Lockhart Catering on 24 January 2022 10:00 AM

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