National Chef of the Year 2013: Hayden Groves - looking back over my shoulder!

The  Staff Canteen

This is the latest in a series of regular blogs by executive chef of BaxterStorey and winner of the National Chef of the Year 2013Hayden Groves - looking back over my shoulder!

Well, that went super-fast, what a year! It was like someone had their finger constantly on the FFWD button of the remote. But it’s not yet New Year’s Eve you may ask. Well, I am talking about ‘my fantastic year’ as the reigning National Chef of the Year which sadly came to an end on the 7th October.

Photo 1My last day was spent judging at the Restaurant Show in Earls Court, where it had all began from that amazing moment in 2013. David Mulcahy had organised a stellar line up of judges for that afternoon's final including Phillip Howard, Claire Smyth, Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton, Tom Kerridge, Monica Galetti, Bruce Poole, Hideko Kawa and Brett Graham to name yet a few, 10 years ago I would have got my autograph book out for sure.

I was judging the young chefs in the morning with previous senior winners Alyn Williams and Mark Sargeant, who is also the young chef ambassador, alongside Sophie Michelle, Brian Turner, Ben Tish, Craft guild Chairman Christopher Basten and teaching legend Gary Hunter. We were all in agreement, the standard from the final eight sub 23 year olds was top notch once again, but there had to be a winner and following a great 2 hour final we were unanimous in our verdict - Luke Selby from Le Manoir.

It was the first time since 2010 I had been to the restaurant show without 2 milk trolleys full of light equipment, a suitcase packed full of nerves and courage and my lucky spoon. Looking in from the outside seemed a little surreal especially as host Will Torrent kept making references to Alyn and myself as previous winners to the onlooking crowd. We were both invited to say a few words about what it’s like to compete in the final and I gave my perspective to what the talented final eight would be going through as the clock ticked away. I felt proud, yet underneath part of me was slightly relieved that I didn’t need to go through the stress that had dominated my thoughts over the last few years.

Russell Bateman, National Chef of the Year 2014

Russell Bateman, National Chef

of the Year 2014

There were also a lot of mixed emotions churning around. My competitive instincts wanted me to be in the mix competing and a large part of me was sad that it was over. I guess, however, I can still gain some solace from the fact that they can’t take my name out of the roll call of illustrious previous winners - unlike a certain Tour de France winner! Although that depends on whether they have frozen a urine sample and are retrospectively testing for an overuse of Berroca and caffeine on that special day, yet am sure the radioactive luminous orange glow would have been a dead giveaway!

No doubt you have all seen or heard the news, Russell Bateman won the title and takes his well deserved place in the hall of fame alongside the likes of Chef Ramsey and the other winners in the competitions 40 year history. Russell is not just a great cook as he clearly proved on the day, but having got to know him over the last couple of years and competing against him in the 2013 final, I really can say that on this occasion nice guys sometimes do finish first. Russell has worked in some world class kitchens and this was his third attempt at the title, he more than deserves his time to shine. For myself winning the National Chef of the Year was an amazing career defining moment, the year went super quick! You can always look back over your shoulder and think could I have done more, but this time last year it was a whirl wind of activity, interviews with The Caterer, Staff Canteen, FSM, Stockpot and Chef Magazine.

National Chef of the Year
National Chef of the Year

When the new year commenced I began to start counting down, but not with the excitement that you did as a child awaiting Christmas morning, more of worry and how little time was left to be 'The current National chef of the Year'. There was a nagging fear in me- come 8th October 2014, that would be it - like a clothing collection I would become so last season, cast aside or left in the wardrobe! But rest assured I am too tenacious for that to happen! So, that ‘say yes to every opportunity’ mantra began, a pop up at L’ortolan Chef of the year Mentor days, Caterer involvement, springboard future chef and the Craft guild food festival.

Demo commitments at Hotelympia, speciality fine food, Essex and Herts food festivals, even my borough market activities doubled. Mark Morris from Staff Canteen asked me to get involved more and write some monthly blog pieces, this being the latest of 6. GBchefs reached out to me also about some pieces for them with my claim to fame being the blog ‘how to make chips’ which apparently had the most ‘likes’ over a 3 month period according to Karen Fewell aka @digitalBlonde in her Hotelympia session titled ‘What is #Foodporn doing for the hospitality industry’ I had better not forget to mention shoe horning in two amazing study trips as part of the generous prize fund to Norway and the gastronomic heartland of France- Lyon (part two here).

Commitments on my ‘day job’ at the Deathstar were as challenging as ever yet I wanted and encouraged some of my deserving brigade to flourish under my refreshed enthusiasm. Peter my wingman from the final had continued to develop and joined us in Lyon, Penny held her own pastry pop up, Scott was a finalist for the Roux Scholarship and both he and Jake made the semifinals for the 2014 chef of the year. I don't know what this next year will bring, but I know this; it's going to be very hard to beat the last one.....!

You can follow Hayden on Twitter @Hayden1974

>>> Read more National Chef of the Year blogs here 

Hayden Groves-FI
Hayden Groves is the former Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year, having won last year’s competition at the Restaurant Show in October. He is the executive chef at contract caterers BaxterStorey previously having worked as the executive chef for Lloyds of London. Hayden Groves joins a long line of great chefs to have won the prestigious award including Gordon Ramsay, David Everitt-MatthiasSimon HulstoneMark SargeantSteve LoveAlyn Williams and many more.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st October 2014

National Chef of the Year 2013: Hayden Groves - looking back over my shoulder!