Published: 10:11, 22 October 2021
| Updated: 10:12, 22 October 2021
The former head chef of a luxury hotel has been crowned National Chef of the Year by the Craft Guild of Chefs.
Thomas Swaby, who is based in Gillingham, won the title after wooing judges with his three-course menu.
Formerly head chef at Inverlochy Castle, Fort William, in Scotland, he will shortly be taking up a new role in the Caribbean for six months.
He emerged triumphant after a cook-off with each competitor in the final given a brief of telling their story of the pandemic through food.
Menus had to include a vegetarian starter incorporating ingredients on the Knorr Future 50 Foods list. These ingredients have been identified with the support of the WWF as having a positive impact on the environment, by improving the diversity of the crops we consume as well as having excellent nutritional credentials.
The main course focused on supporting British suppliers on land and at sea with a dish incorporating both meat and fish, whilst desserts had to reflect the start of the pandemic, when ingredients were sparse, and households turned to baking for comfort.
Thomas Swaby said: "I was most excited about the Future 50 Foods starter as the pandemic has encouraged us to find new ways of cooking and eating and it’s important we all address the issue of sustainability.
"National Chef of the Year is the most prestigious cooking competition in the UK and that is reflected in the quality of the judges we cook for so winning this title is an absolute privilege.”
Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth, added: “When I set this brief, it was hard to know what kind of dishes we’d be tasting at the final as the criteria was so personal to each chef, all of whom are on their own culinary journey.
"I left it open to interpretation as I wanted to see how the chefs demonstrated their style of cooking, personality, and creativity. This not only led to some amazing cooking, but these menus will truly go down in history, highlighting the incredible culinary talent we have here in the UK.
"Choosing the winner went down to the wire but Thomas gave us everything we were looking for; three delicious and stunning plates of food, a real focus on sustainability and loads of passion coming through his dishes.”
The winning chef's starter was roasted maitake chawanmushi, mushroom ketchup, roasted maitake, nasturtiums, pickled enoki and mushroom tea.
The main course was British suckling pig with Orkney scallop, burnt apple puree, spinach, Chardonnay vinegar mash, apple, shallot and pig sauce. The dessert was sticky toffee pudding.