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Welsh chefs in cook-off for National Chef of the Year title

National Chef of Wales contest winner Thomas Westerland and runner-up Matthew Ramsdale are among 40 chefs who will be involved in a cook-off for a place in the National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) final.

The chefs come from all areas of the hospitality business including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private and public sectors.

They will now take part in four heats in June, with the winner of each being automatically seeded into the final at the Restaurant Show at the Olympia London on October 2. It will then be down to the highest scores across all four heats to discover which other two chefs will complete the line-up.

Thomas, 26, head chef at Lucknam Park Hotel, Colerne, competes in heat three at Le Cordon Bleu, London on June 19 while Matthew, 26, sous chef at The Chester Grosvenor, Chester, competes in heat one in Sheffield on June 12.

Thomas Westerland.

Also competing in heat three with Thomas is Daniel Jones, head chef, JT at 3 Main Street, Fishguard, who was Matthew’s head chef when they worked together at The Town House, Oswestry.

Having competed in the NCOTY for the past two years, reaching the final last year, Thomas will be hoping to go one better this year and win the title to add to the National Chef of Wales accolade which he won at the Welsh International Culinary Championships in February.

“It was quite a hard brief this year and having been a finalist last year, I didn’t know if I would go through,” said Thomas, whose family home is in Cardiff. “I would definitely like to get through to the final again and then it all comes down to what you do on the day.

“I know what to expect and how much practice and organisation that I need to put in. It’s great to meet the other chefs and to get feedback on your food form the judges, many of whom I have grown up admiring.” 

For his dishes, he has chosen pistachio falafel with a taboulet salad, smoked bulgar wheat and yoghurt and honey dressing as his starter. Main course is slow cooked lamb rump and faggot on a bed of summer vegetables, mint jelly and lamb cawl. Dessert is raspberry and tarragon floating island.

Matthew was a National Chef of Wales runner up for the second year running in February and competed for a place in the NCOTY final last year.

He believes his experience of competing in the semi-final in Sheffield last year will be advantageous.

“I am grateful to be in the competition to have another go,” said Matthew.

“I have experience of the kitchen in Sheffield from last year’s semi-final, so hopefully I should be in with a better chance this time.”

He will be cooking a starter of red pepper polenta followed by a main course of lamb tartare and lamb sweetbreads and a dessert of lime and strawberry floating island.

Gary Jones, chair of judges, added:

“When we set the brief we wanted the focus to be on two key things – showcasing our exceptional British produce and evolving chefs’ skills. The chefs have stepped up to the mark with creative and innovative ideas.”