Cooking Competitions: Which To Enter & When
For chefs working in startup food businesses, established restaurants or working as personal chefs, culinary competitions are a way to make a name for yourself in the world of food and drink. Moreover, they are about chefs of all levels competing to showcase their skills and talents, challenging themselves with cuisines, culinary skills and creativity.
There are numerous chef competitions in the UK and abroad, each aiming to challenge chefs in unique ways. The winners are rewarded with accolades and prestige – a great way to get your name on the map. Here we’ve collected the best competitions for chefs, explaining when and how to enter, and a little about why you should think about entering.
Who can enter: Professional chefs over 20 years of age (as of May 1st 2019), with at least 2 years experience as a chef OR NVQ Level 3 or equivalent in professional cookery.
When to enter by: April 29th 2019.
MasterChef: The Professionals is an opportunity to stake a claim to fame while challenging yourself as a chef. In this culinary competition, you’ll be judged by Gregg Wallace, Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti, all well regarded chefs themselves. You can compete as a solo chef, with or without a food business behind you.
MasterChef:The Professionals has been broadcast since 2008. Now entering its 12th season, it is a highly pressured competitive environment taking place over several weeks with skills and knowledge tests, along with invention and restaurant catering challenges. While not your typical chef competition, it is a worthy chance to show off your skills in a public setting.
Bake Off: The Professionals (2020)
Who can enter: Professional, working chefs over 18 years old with an expertise in pastry/patisserie,
When to enter by: Entries should be in by August each year, based on 2019’s applications.
Previously known as Bake Off: Creme De La Creme, this is a competition for two chefs, including one Head Chef and a team member, such as a Chef de Partie, Commis or Sous Chef. The Head Chef competing must be able to represent the business they work for.
While this is not a typical chef competition, this is a unique opportunity to test your skills and build your name as a chef. As with the other Bake Off series, this is televised, and so you must be available for auditions and then filming, over ten weeks, if you are successful.
Roux Scholarship (2020)
Who can enter: Employed chefs aged between 22 and 30.
When to enter by: (Based on 2019’s competition) Open for entries in November 2019 with a deadline of 31 January 2020.
‘The Roux Scholarship is more than just a competition; it is an opportunity.’ This is a competition for chefs who want to test their skills, showcase what they bring to the culinary world as a unique chef and who want to broaden their technical skills.
Competitors who are successful in their applications often compete several times before winning. And it’s worth it as winners get a cash prize of £6000 to further their culinary career and the ability to work in a three-star Michelin kitchen of their choice, anywhere in the world.
Who can enter: This is a competition for individual student or apprentice chefs for those entering the culinary art.
When to enter by: Register by April 2020 (Based on 2019’s competition)
The competition takes place in a qualifying and a final heat, cooking a selection of dishes and creating a dish from a mystery box of ingredients.
Three is the magic number of the Culinary Arts Cooking Competition. ‘Competitors must be familiar with the core competencies’ and entrants must have LESS than three years culinary experience and be working towards a Level 3 qualification. They will also accept applicants who have received the Level 3 qualification in the last 12 months. There is a limit of 3 entries for each location or campus, if a student, but there is no limit on the number of applications from a single business.
National Chef of the Year (2020)
Who can enter: Any chef over 24 years of age.
When to enter by: (Based on 2019’s competition) Entries are open at the start of February and close at the end of March.
Each challenge is judged on the day at National Chef of the Year (NCOTY), with your previous skills and personality cast aside. It is all down to how you interpret the ingredients and the menu you create for the judges on the day. For 2019’s NCOTY, competitors were asked to create a ‘summer lunch menu for two guests in 2 hours’.
Started in 1972, National Chef of the Year is a highly prestigious competition and counts many well known and regarded chefs among its previous winners, including Gordon Ramsay, Alyn Williams and Mark Sargeant. It has been such a success, they have recently launched Young National Chef of the Year.
Master of Culinary Arts (2021)
Who can enter: You must be a full-time employed ‘chef, pastry chef or in restaurant management and service’, with 10 years experience, advanced skills, trained others and more.
When to enter by: Contact for details or how and when.
Unlike many competitions in the culinary sector, this one doesn’t take place every year. The last Master of Culinary Arts (MCA) was in 2017 and the next is in 2021. They are given ingredients ahead of time and then asked to create the best dishes possible.
Previous winners of MCA include Anthony Worrall-Thompson and André Garrett. It is considered one of the biggest and most elite competitions, and focuses on challenging the individual to showcase their expert culinary skills.
Ready to get cooking?
If you’re ready to put your knowledge and skills in the kitchen to the test, then there is no time like the present to enter a chef competition. There are many competitions to enter, across the skill levels and with different rounds and numerous awards and accolades to pick up, all in the name of being the best chef you can be.
With these chef competitions, the taking part and challenging yourself is (almost) as important as winner. So why not apply today?
Even if you’re not taking part, it is worth considering staying abreast of these competitions – whether it be through watching MasterChef or simply noting who is winning and why. From this you will learn about the latest food trends and be able to stay on top of what is hot and not in the ever changing world of food businesses.