Young Chef Young Waiter Finals to be hosted in UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

Thanks to a new partnership with The Department for International Trade, Young Chef Young Waiter 2020 will be stepping up to a global audience this year, taking 20 UK semi-finalists to battle it out at the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE this November.

They will be joined by judges including Michelin star chef Theo Randall, proprietor of Theo Randall at the Intercontinental and Simon King, Group Ops director JKS Restaurant Group, as well as 2019 Young Chef Young Waiter winners Richard Henderson from Restaurant Hywel Jones, Lucknam Park and Alessandro Calzavacca from Jean-Georges at The Connaught.

The Young Chef Young Waiter of the Year competition, in association with UKHospitality and the Restaurant Association, has been honouring the best young chefs and waiters in the UK since 1979. It highlights the remarkable skills of the finest young professionals building their careers in the industry. Past winners include Raymond Blanc OBE, Heston Blumenthal OBE and Angela Hartnett MBE.

From 20 Oct 2020 to 10 Apr 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai will provide a global platform to showcase British innovation, creativity and collaboration to over 15 million visitors, from students and families to celebrities and heads of Government. Under the UK’s participation theme ‘Innovating for a shared future’ the topic of how we utilise technology and innovation to grow, consume and provide food sustainably will be a key point of discussion across the six months.

The Young Chef, Young Waiter finals and awards will take place in the stunning UK Pavilion, produced by Avantgarde and designed by Es Devlin. Previous UK pavilions at World Expos have featured menus from some of the UK’s top chefs, including Tom Aikens, Angela Hartnett, Ken Hom and Tom Kitchin.

Darren Tierney, Senior Responsible Owner for the UK at Expo 2020 Dubai, comments: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the talented contestants of Young Chef Young Waiter to demonstrate their ability on a world stage. The UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will showcase some of our future stars within the food and hospitality industry – a sector where we have a proud history of excellence and innovation.”

Robert Walton MBE, president of the Restaurant Association and founder of The Nth Degree, Global comments: “As the past Chairman of the competition from 2006 to 2012,  I was delighted  to relaunch the Young Chef Young Waiter concept and give a new generation a fantastic opportunity to excel in the hospitality industry. Young Chef Young Waiter in 2019 exceeded all of our expectations and was a spectacular success last year.

We are especially excited to see that our Young Chef winner Richard Henderson has now moved to London to work with one of the UK’s most acclaimed British chefs, Tom Aikens. Our ambitions for this competition are global and  it is thanks to our new partnership with The Department for International Trade that Young Chef Young Waiter 2020 will be travelling to Dubai this year. Our 20 UK semi-finalists, who will be aged 26 and under, will battle it out in the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in November. This is a huge step for the future of the hospitality industry and is the perfect opportunity to showcase British creativity and talent, plus expose the semi finalists to a world stage. We can’t wait for entries to open in April and meet the next round of contestants.”

Head chef judge Theo Randall, proprietor of Theo Randall at the Intercontinental: “We are so excited with the prospect of moving the Young Chef Young Waiter competition to an international arena. Dubai is such a modern and fast paced place, it is the perfect environment to put our young semi finalists through their paces. The results last year were phenomenal and our Young Chef winner, Richard Henderson, was a fantastic character and had a really calm persona in the kitchen. He cooked really well under stress and his final dishes were absolutely flawless. We are all amazed by his personality and think he is going to go a long way in the industry.”

Our head waiter judge Simon King, Group Ops director JKS Restaurant Group comments: “For  me being the head judge for YCYW is very special, it’s a completion of my journey as I was fortunate enough to win the competition in 2000. I still remember how it felt, who I competed with and the what I learnt about myself. The idea of going to Dubai is very exciting and will further revitalise the competition from last year. Holding the semi-final in the Pavilion at EXPO 2020 will make it more relevant, engaging, fun and educational, reflecting the modern challenges young professionals now face and showcase the breath of skill and talent they now need to excel in this industry. Our Young Waiter winner from last year, Alessandro Calzavacca, is a credit to the competition. He is clearly very passionate, unbelievably composed and his attention to detail across all our tasks was noted by all our judges. We think he has a very bright future ahead of him in hospitality.”

Young Chef Young Waiter Richard HendersonRichard Henderson, winner of Young Chef Young Waiter 2019: ”Last year was a brilliant year for me; winning Young Chef Young Waiter really has changed my life. I nearly stopped cooking altogether in 2018 and in just over a year I’ve managed to rekindle my passion, creativity and interest, which inspires me to keep learning, it has felt amazing!

This has all been possible because people believed in me when I didn’t. Hywel Jones, who mentored me from 2012, was one of the main people who inspired me to cook again, and from that belief and his encouragement I entered these competitions. Since entering them, I have started to really believe in myself again. After the competition, Tom Aikens contacted me about an opportunity to work in his brand new restaurant in Belgravia. I asked to do a 10 day stage at ‘Muse‘, which I found an incredible experience, so incredible in fact I’ve now moved to London to work full time with Tom.

I’m excited to hear that this year the Young Chef Young Waiter final will be held in Dubai in the UK Pavilion at the World EXPO 2020, what a fantastic opportunity for all the contestants to showcase their skills at such a huge event promoting the very best of UK talent on a world stage.”

Further opportunities to be involved in the UK programme at this major world event are still available. Further information on sponsorship, exhibiting or showcasing innovation in hospitality and catering can be found at: