Prestigious Chef Competition Recognises Top South West Talent

Talented chefs and home cooks have been recognised in the region’s most prestigious chef contest.

The South West Chef of the Year competition, which was founded by renowned chef Michael Caines MBE DL, returned with a bang this week after a two-year break enforced by the pandemic. The winners were announced at a glittering awards ceremony at Exeter Golf and Country Club last night; providing some light in what has been a challenging time for the industry.

The competition was established 19 years ago and is the only culinary competition in the UK that recognises professional chefs, student chefs, junior cooks and home cooks. It is widely regarded as one of the UK’s leading culinary competitions.

The overall winner of the title of South West Chef of the Year is Nathan Johnson from The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath. Nathan was also awarded Best Young Professional Chef, which is for 19 to 24-year-olds working in any position in the kitchen up to junior sous chef. He also won the awards for Best Menu and Best Fish Dish.

Joe Cotton, from Àclèaf, Boringdon Hall Hotel, Plympton, won the Professional Chef award which is presented to a person of any age working as a sous or pastry chef or above.

Dylan Evered, from The Sardine Factory, Looe, Cornwall and City College Plymouth won the award for Student/Apprentice chef for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Munopa Nhete, 17, an A Level student at Queen’s College, Taunton, won the title of Home Cook for people aged 16 and over.

Syd Yarde, 14, from Torquay Academy, won the award for South West Junior Chef of the Year, an award for students aged between 11 and 16.

Jayden Watson, from Lympstone Manor, Exmouth, and Plymouth High School, won the award for Best Showcase of Regional Ingredients; Andrew Jenkinson, from Lucknam Park in Bath, won the award for Best Meat Dish, Lewis Brown, from Edies, Carlyon Bay, Cornwall, won the award for Best Dessert and Harrison Brockington, from Gather in Totnes, won the award for Best Presentation.

Organisers said the competition provides a platform for the region’s young chefs to build their profiles and an opportunity for the industry to promote the high standards of hospitality in the region.

The competition aims to recognise the skill and creativity of professional chefs and amateur cooks; nurture up-and-coming professional and student chefs and provide a platform from which competitors can highlight their skills and develop their careers. It also works with schools, supporting students to develop culinary skills and an interest in food and cooking, and to inspire those considering a career in catering.

Michael Caines, joint founder and head judge of the competition, congratulated the winners. He said: “The standard of dishes from our participants was exceptionally high, demonstrating the very talented chefs we have here in the south west.

“After a two-year break, it was incredibly rewarding to be back at Exeter College, where we stage the competition, to see the sheer talent on show from the competitors. We’re looking forward to see how their careers develop in the future.”

Michael added: “This event is vital in showcasing our incredible industry, of which we are all so passionate. However, we face some very significant challenges; a combination of issues has created a serious shortage of labour and this has been further compounded by rising energy and other costs.

“Although this competition cannot solve all of those problems, it does offer an opportunity for the industry to promote the high standards of hospitality in the region and a platform for the region’s young chefs to build their profiles.”