Meet the National Chef of the Year 2017 finalists: Charles Smith

The Staff Canteen

National Chef of the Year 2017 finalist Charles Smith, is currently the head chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury.

He started in the industry at 14, washing dishes and preparing vegetables, before taking up his first role with Paul Heathcote. He then worked at the Michelin starred Gilpin Lodge and later as sous chef at Marcus Wareing, it was during this time that he won the Craft Guild of Chefs Young National Chef of the Year 2011 and moved to New York to work with Thomas Keller at his restaurant, Per Se before moving to London to work with James Knappett at Kitchen Table.

Are you nervous about cooking live at the restaurant show?

Having won the Young National Chef of the Year competition back in 2011, which was at The Restaurant Show as well, that experience will definitely help me. So, for that reason I’m not really nervous, I’m excited to be part of the event when it’s live and I love competition as well, I love a challenge and it brings out the best in me.

How do you let your personality come out in your cooking?

The dishes that I create are based on the quality of the seasonal ingredients, that’s number one. Suppliers and flavour combinations also influence my cooking a lot, as a lot of the dishes I create I like to eat myself anyway. So I’d never make a dish that I don’t enjoy to eat. I travel a lot as well, I spend a lot of time in France in the summer as my wife is French, so we’re always in Provence. I spend a lot of time there at the markets and eating at various restaurants. The sole purpose of why I cook is to create delicious food!

Who have been your greatest influences?

I worked with Marcus Wareing when I was very young, just turned 18, for four years. He played a massive role in my foundations of cookery, so the level of discipline I learnt from Marcus is something that I’ve never really seen anywhere else. That definitely helped steer me in the right direction and I still carry that level of discipline with me till this day. I also spent some time working with Thomas Keller and he was a huge inspiration.

Another one is David Breeden, who is now the executive sous chef at the French Laundry, he’s probably the most influential chef that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working for. He’s an absolutely amazing cook to work with, especially the level of detail and the thought processes which go into his cooking. He was something else, an amazing guy as a person as well! My father also inspires me as he works hard, which has rubbed off on me. I’ve worked in a kitchen since I was 14 and my Dad took me in one day and said go and get a job and I’ve not stopped since!

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

My main goal is to have a successful, busy restaurant with high accolades, three Michelin stars would be the absolute ultimate!

What would winning mean to you?

Having won Young National Chef of the Year, I would love to win it as I would be the first one to win both titles! That would be an amazing accolade so I’m putting a lot of practice in and I won’t stop till I do it either!

>>> Read more about this year's finalists here

On Tuesday, October 4 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. 




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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th September 2016

Meet the National Chef of the Year 2017 finalists: Charles Smith