Record nine chefs compete for coveted National Chef of Wales title

A record nine chefs competed on the first day of the Welsh International Culinary Championships to be crowned National Chef of Wales.

The chefs from across Wales took part in the final, each cooking a three-course menu for 12 people featuring six Welsh GI products, on Monday.

The high quality final was held at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) hosted by the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales), Newport and organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW).

The chefs were challenged to cook a vegan starter followed by a main course using two different cuts of GI Welsh Lamb and a dessert featuring Denbigh plums, ice cream, chocolate and biscuit or tuille.

The finalists included Ryan Jones, head chef at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, who is looking to win the coveted title for a second time, having previously been victorious in 2014.

Last year’s finalists Jamie Tully, executive chef Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen, Llanidloes; Wayne Barnard, junior sous chef at Benito Luis, Caerleon and Matthew Owen, head chef at The Celtic Manor, Newport, returned to compete again.

First time finalists were Angharad Rockall, head chef at Heronston Hotel and Spa, Bridgend; Joshua Morris, senior sous chef Palé Hall Hotel, Llandderfel, Bala; Rebekah Wright, sous chefs at The Celtic Manor/The Celtic Collection, Newport; Harry Paynter-Roberts, sous chef at Carden Park Hotel and Spa, Chester and William Richards, training officer with Cambrian Training from Pontyclun.

The winner, who will be announced at an awards dinner on Wednesday night, will have an opportunity to attend the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026, which is being hosted at ICC Wales. He or she will also win a set of engraved Friedr Dick competition knives and £250 of Churchill products.

This is the first time the WICC has been held at ICC Wales, in the country’s biggest hospitality skills event. Over three days, chefs, butchers, front of house workers and apprentices, competing in the Skills Competition Wales hospitality finals, will show their skills in action.

The WICC is open free of charge to the public and hospitality trade.

The WICC has attracted record entries, with chefs, butchers and front of house workers competing over three days at the biggest hospitality skills event Wales has ever seen.

Skills Competition Wales aims to raise the profile of skills in Wales and is part of the Welsh Government funded Inspiring Skills Excellence Programme. Students, trainees and apprentices are given a chance to challenge, benchmark and raise their skills by taking part in competitions across a range of sectors.

After cooking his menu, Jones said: “I was happy with all three courses and had forgotten how much I missed the competition buzz. I loved it and hope to return the favour next year by being the commis chef for my sous chef Gareth Pugh.”

Barnard, a regular in the final, said: “It all went really well and I loved the experience of competing in the final again.”

Tully’s verdict was: “Compared to last year’s final, it was 100 times better and I was happy with my dishes. I attended a judges seminar last year to learn what they are looking for, so hopefully they liked my dishes.”

Owen was also happy with his dishes. “A few things could have gone better with the timings but I think I cooked some good food and hopefully the judges agree,” he said.

Rockall was another happy chef in her first ever competition. “We had one or two errors which we managed to rectify,” she said. “I really enjoyed the competition and will definitely be back.”

Paynter-Roberts said: “I really enjoyed the competition and everything went to plan. I was happy with the dishes and I finished on time which is something I hadn’t managed in practice.”

Morris, who competed in the Junior Chef of Wales a few years ago, said: “I was very happy with the three dishes and it was a very enjoyable final.”

Richards said he was “reasonably” happy with his dishes but felt the lamb in his main course needed more time to rest. “It’s good to test your skills against like-minded chefs but competing in the final does take a huge amount of planning and commitment,” he added.

Wright said: “It was a lot different to what I was anticipating, as I had not competed for 10 years. I am a two AA rosette sous chef and I tried to demonstrate, as much as I could, the style of food that I cook in the restaurant.”

CAW president Arwyn Watkins, OBE, says the WICC will be the launchpad for the road to Wales hosting the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026 at ICC Wales.

The WICC’s headline sponsors are the Welsh Government, Castell Howell, Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotion Wales, ICC Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Kentaur, Churchill, MCS Technical Products, Roller Grill, Radnor Hills, Dick Knifes, Cygnet Gin, Capital Cuisine, Ecolab, City & Guilds and Compass Cymru.

National Chef of Wales Final menus:

Wayne Barnard’s starter was Welsh filo pastry, leek and saffron potato canelloni. Main course of Rhug Estate Denbigh salt marsh lamb cannon. Dessert: dark chocolate parfait and chocolate Denbigh plum sponge.

Rebekah Wright: Starter of mushroom, muso, burnt onion puree, laverbread beurre blanc. Main course celebration of Welsh produce: Duo of lamb Pembrokeshire potato, leek, pea and ham bon bon and black garlic. Dessert was dark chocolate terrine, spiced Denbigh plums, yoghurt ice cream, biscotti, cocoa tuille and honeycomb.

Angharad Rockall’s starter was smoked braised leek, sorrel and hazelnut pesto, vegan cheese fritter and hazelnut butter. Main course was salt aged rack of lamb, braised lamb faggot, Wye Valley asparagus, wild asparagus chervil emulsion, potato fondant and summer savoury puree. Dessert was Denbigh plum tart, shortbread biscuit base, plum jam, frangipane, creme patisserie, fresh plums and chocolate curls.

Joshua Morris’ starter was confit of Pembrokeshire potatoes, hay, truffle and baked potato dash. Main course was roasted Gower salt marsh lamb, lamb shoulder and Welsh leek hot pot, cavolo nero and black garlic tapenade. Dessert was white chocolate and meadowsweet parfait, cinnamon and Denbigh plums.

Ryan Jones’s starter was Coronation chicken terrine of banana blossom, plant based bacon and apricot. Main: Sirloin of Welsh Lamb with laverbread and cockle, braised neck, Caerphilly cheese gratin, sticky red cabbage and red wine jus. Dessert was confit of Denbigh plum, sable Breton, chocolate ganache and hazelnut ice cream.

Matt Owen’s starter was Jerusalem artichoke and wild mushroom tartlet, chanterelles, mushroom powder, caramelised onion, cashew nut and nutritional yeast, parmesan and black truffle. Main course was herb crusted Welsh rack of lamb, lamb sweetbread, caper raisin, butternut squash, Welsh leek, caper and laverbread, sea fennel and lamb jus. Dessert was Denbigh plums, citrus zest and aromatics, caramelised white chocolate, fennel sable and cinnamon ice cream.

Jamie Tully’s starter was PGI Welsh leek and laverbread mosaic, cashew cream, sweet and sour onions, Welsh cider, leek Nham Jim dressing. Main course was loin of PGI Welsh Lamb, glazed lamb's heart and kidney faggot, lamb's fat duchess potatoes with PGI Caerphilly cheese, Provencal vegetables and lamb bone jus. Dessert was Chartists broken vanilla cheesecake with PGI malt whiskey, Denbigh plums and caramac ice cream.

William Richards’ starter was miso roasted celeriac, pressed apple, pickled cucumber, borage, girole mushroom, Welsh autumn truffle and celeriac cream, hazelnut, chive oil, nasturtium, aged sweet sherry vinegar gel and mushroom tuille.
Main course was roasted lamb loin, leek mousse, morrell farce, braised lamb neck, savoury granola, fresh pea, sour cream, horseradish and lovage gel tartlet, lovage emulsion, lamb fat cooked salsify, carrot puree, pickled heritage carrot and lamb sauce. Dessert was Denbigh plums and chocolate.

Harry Paynter Roberts’ starter was sunflower seed porridge with wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke, savoury granola and spring onion. Main course was roast saddle of lamb and sticky neck tartlet with sheep's curd, turnip and preserved wild garlic sala verde. Dessert was Denbigh plum delice topped with a chocolate cremeaux, roasted plums, plum gin, chocolate sauce and cardamom and salt ice cream.

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