The Craft Guild of Chefs has selected eight finalists for its prestigious National Chef of the Year competition.
The eight chefs were selected from a shortlist of 40 in the semi-final heats at Sheffield College on 10 June and Le Cordon Bleu in London on 25 June.
The chefs each prepared a three course meal for four guests within two hours with a menu reflecting: Asian; Oriental; Modern British; Modern European and Rest of the World cuisines and consist of a vegetable focused starter, main course using locally sourced fresh white fish, with appropriate accompaniments and a dessert using summer fruits, served hot or cold.
The eight finalists are:
Adam Handling, head chef, St Ermins hotel, London
Andrew Gotting, executive group head chef, Galloping Gourmet, Worcestershire
Daniel Morgan, sous chef, the Square, London
Diane Camp (Kay), development chef, Reynolds, Hertfordshire
Lahiru Jayasekara, head chef, the Manor at Weston on the Green, Oxfordshire
Nick Edgar, head chef, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire
Russell Bateman, head chef, Colette's, Hertfordshire
Simon Webb, head chef, Restaurant Associates, London
The judging panel for the semi-finals included chefs Benoit Blin, Ben Tish, Clare Smyth, Cyrus Todiwala, Gary Jones, Phil Howard and Vivek Singh. It was the first time that the London heats had taken place in the illustrious training kitchens of one of Europe's premier cooking schools, Le Cordon Bleu.
Phil Howard, chair of the judges said: "A huge amount of energy and enthusiasm goes into chef competitions. The competitors here today aren't here because they have to be but because they have an absolute, all-consuming passion to compete and commitment to their profession. As a judge I'm always interested to see where British cooking is at and what shines through from today is proper cooking, seasonality and provenance. I've enjoyed some outstanding food and phenomenal finesse today and I'm looking forward to some excellent food at the final."
The chefs cooked a wide range of dishes making good use of seasonal British produce. The shortlisted starter dishes included A Chilled English Garden Essence from Russell Bateman, Wye Valley Asparagus, Orange and Chantenay Carrot Salad, Aylesbury Duck Pastrami from Diane Kay with mains such as Halibut, Wild Garlic, Cauliflower, Gem from Adam Handling and a dessert of Strawberry and Elderflower Panna Cotta, Gooseberry and Gewürztraminer from Nick Edgar.
Each finalist will take part in a ‘mentor day' on 19 September at Unilever Food Solutions in Leatherhead where they will be given details of the mystery basket of ingredients that they must use in the final. They will go on to compete in front of a live audience at The Restaurant Show on 7 October.
David Mulcahy (pictured), the competition's organiser and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said he was looking forward to seeing the finalists in action: "By becoming National Chef of the Year the winner will enter an exclusive club of gifted British chefs, many whom have gone on to enjoy fantastic careers. We're really looking forward to seeing eight talented chefs compete for their place in culinary history."