Nick Smith from Vacherin London is crowned National Chef of the Year 2021

The Staff Canteen

In what has been described as the toughest National Chef of the Year event in the competition’s 48-year history, Nick Smith, head chef at Vacherin has been crowned as the winner in a tense virtual awards ceremony this afternoon.

Watched by hundreds of the biggest names in hospitality, as part of Hospitality Week, the event saw the streaming of the final which took place at Le Cordon Bleu earlier this month.

Viewers saw emotion, passion, blood, sweat and tears from the ten finalists who have shown such resilience and determination in the face of hospitality’s toughest era. Nick served up a starter of Gilthead 'gazpacho' Heirloom tomato & cucumber, a main course of Romney Marsh lamb, roe ravigote, fennel, samphire and aster and for dessert Sweet Eve strawberry split, clotted cream, lemon and mint.

His dishes truly stood out to Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth who was supported by Clare Smyth, Claude Bosi, Graham Hornigold and former winners, Frederick Forster, Russell Bateman and Kuba Winkowski in making this important decision.

Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth said: “It is a real honour to be chair of judges and crown Nick Smith as the winner. When I took on this role, I could never have imagined chefs would be facing the extreme challenges this pandemic has brought. It’s hit our industry hard, but the fact these chefs put themselves forward to compete, despite such uncertainty in their professional and personal lives, is so inspiring.

"I loved the second stage where chefs had to sum themselves up in a few bites as this gave us an insight into the chefs’ characters too. Winning NCOTY is about more than cooking delicious food, it’s about being an ambassador for your industry and supporting others. We need winners like Nick to show the world what an amazing industry hospitality is, to encourage others to want to be chefs and to incentivise people to work hard to achieve their own personal dreams.

"Nick’s attention to detail when cooking and the passion he has shown throughout this competition has been incredible. You could see how much this title means to him and he is a really deserving winner.”

Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle finished in second, achieving a top three position for the third year running, with April-Lily Partridge taking third place.

April-Lily has made history by being the highest female finisher in almost 50 years.

David Mulcahy added: “There was never any doubt that National Chef of the Year would go ahead this year; we just needed to work out how we could make it happen with so many restrictions. Hospitality has been on a real rollercoaster over the last few months, we have been catapulted through food shortages and businesses closing and we’ve seen families affected. None of us knew where we were going to end up. But through all of this we still have to battle on and keep going.

"We took the competition as our responsibility to help those chefs who needed a focus, a distraction and something to fill their time when life felt empty. When everything else was taken out of chefs’ control, NCOTY has given them something to think about and work towards. It’s been an awful but very special year for the competition and Nick is a remarkable winner. He’s remained incredibly positive, focused on his family and done what he needed to do to help him get through this. We are delighted to welcome Nick to that long list of winners and have no doubt he’s going to thrive as the National Chef of the Year in 2021.”

For 2020 a new award has been announced which is the Best Pastry Award sponsored by Valrhona. This was chosen by Paul Ainsworth, Graham Hornigold and Kuba Winkowski and awarded to Nick Smith for his Sweet Eve strawberry split, clotted cream, lemon and mint.

After yesterday’s screening of the Young National Chef of the Year final, the Craft Guild of Chefs has also just announced the winner of this year’s title - Edwin Kuk, junior sous chef at The Art School Restaurant in Liverpool.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th September 2020

Nick Smith from Vacherin London is crowned National Chef of the Year 2021