Meet the National Chef of the Year 2016 finalists: Lawrence McCarthy

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st October 2015

On Tuesday, October 6 a new National Chef of the Year 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 - Lawrence McCarthy.

South African-born Lawrence initially trained in business and had designs on becoming an accountant- however, his passion for cooking with his mother won through, and he has already worked in the kitchens of two Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing and Tom Aikens since beginning his career at the tender age of 18. For the last four years Lawrence has worked as sous chef at The Ledbury, under Michelin-starred chef Brett Graham and owner Phil Howard, both legends of the kitchen. 2015 is the first time that Lawrence has tried for National Chef of the Year.

Lawrence McCarthy The Ledbury
Lawrence McCarthy The Ledbury

Are you nervous about cooking live at The Restaurant Show?

A little bit, but I’m not checking any of the guys out so I’m concentrating on my own stuff, hopefully I won’t get so nervous. I’m just sticking to what I believe in. I should be OK, I don’t normally get too nervous, but I’ll just work as hard as I can, and keep my fingers crossed.

How do you let your personality come across in your dishes?

Just by being myself, I guess! The good thing about being at The Ledbury is that it’s… well, not eccentric but you are allowed to behave in your own way, as long as we’re not being rude to each other, so it’s always a lot of fun. It’s not a strict and regimented kitchen. Everyone’s encouraged to show confidence and character, and that’s what makes the job far better, everyone spends time to show off who they really are, and that comes out in the cooking as well. Obviously it all looks the same when it’s plated but everyone’s got their own way of cooking, and it’s good fun to be around each other when you’re all doing that.

Who are your inspirations in cooking?

I’d say it’s a combination, definitely people like Tom and Marcus, but basically everyone I’ve worked with has inspired me in one way or another.

What are your plans for the future?

Lawrence McCarthy The Ledbury
Lawrence McCarthy The Ledbury

At the moment I’m hoping to stay at The Ledbury for a little bit longer, I’d like to go to Japan for a little bit to experience their culture, and hopefully come back to London and start my own business. I’m not in any rush, I don’t want to start things too early and give myself an expiry date, I want to get experience. 

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

The reason why I went into this was to pit myself against the other guys, to see where I stand. I’ve been working downstairs in The Ledbury so long, I haven’t really seen anyone else or worked with anyone else, so you don’t know how good you are. If you win something like this you can reassure yourself that you’re good, it puts you in a little group with all the other guys who’ve won it before, which is a nice feeling. It’s just reassuring, you know? Your name gets out there a little bit and people recognize you for that, which is a bonus.

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

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st October 2015

Meet the National Chef of the Year 2016 finalists: Lawrence McCarthy