Meet the National Chef of the Year 2016 finalists: Andrew Ditchfield

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2015

On Tuesday, October 6 a new National Chef of the Year  2016 will be crowned. We take a closer look at this year's finalists hoping to produce winning dishes at the final at The Restaurant Show, which will impress the judging panel - Andrew Ditchfield.

 Andrew has been a chef at the House of Commons for 17 years and he has been a pastry chef there for last four years. He previously worked at Claridges and L’Ortolan. This is his first attempt at National Chef of the Year but he is no stranger to cooking in front of an audience as he has been the pastry chef for the national culinary team for the last six years, competeing at the Culinary Olympics.

Andrew Ditchfield
Andrew Ditchfield

Congratulations on making it through to the final of National Chef of the Year Andrew, how did it make you feel?

Surprised! It’s the first year I’d done it, I was commis for another chef who used to work here for two years, and we agreed that once he either got it or gave up then I would give it a try. He left so I thought I’d give it a try. And lo and behold, I got to the final!

Will you be nervous about cooking in front of a live audience in the final?

Not at all, I’ve been the pastry chef for the national culinary team and we’ve done Luxembourg and the Culinary Olympics, so I’ve been doing that for the past six years. I’m used to having people staring, standing over your shoulder, watching what you’re doing.

How did you get about taking on the heats? What dishes did you cook for them?

For me the process always starts with reading the brief over and over again and taking down every point they’re looking for, because numerous times you can go off on a bit of a tangent and find that you’re off the beaten track. I then picked three dishes that I enjoy and that mean something, to try and find a bit of a story. You’re cooking but you’re also selling an idea, selling an item, can you get the judges to relate to it?

What’s the philosophy behind it all?

I’m a salesman at the end of the day, if my dish is good but somebody else’s dish is as good then I need to put that extra bit into the presentation and the thought process to make me that one point better. They don’t judge me on how they feel about the dish but if I can win them over, get them on my side mentally then it gets me one step further.

Who has been your greatest influence as a chef?

andrew ditchfield pic
Andrew Ditchfield

One influence for me which changed the game quite a lot was John Campbell, I did a stage at The Vineyard seven years ago and it was a real eye-opener. It took me in a different direction and really made me think.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m happy as long as I’m learning and I have people around me who are just as interested in what’s going on. Eventually I would like somewhere of my own, but I think the romantic notion of having your own place and the reality of it is completely different! I would like to do something on my own, just to say I’ve tried it, I’m good friends with Simon Hulstone, I’ve spent time in his restaurant, and I sometimes look at him and think ‘Yeah, I would like that’. But I have a very obsessive-compulsive nature and I’m not sure my other half would want me to - it would quickly become an obsession!

What would winning National Chef of the Year mean to you?

When I started this competition, for me it was just a journey to learn things along the way, the goal was just to get to the semi-final and I wasn’t looking particularly towards the final, though it would’ve been nice. To be honest, I’d just be happy that I’d produced the best food that I could, and that the judges thought that my food tasted the best on the day. I’d obviously be ecstatic about winning, it’d stop some of the abuse I get for being a pastry chef. So I’m holding the banner for pastry!

>>> Read about the other National Chef of the Year finalists here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2015

Meet the National Chef of the Year 2016 finalists: Andrew Ditchfield