Craft Guild announces NCOTY semi-finalists and a surge in interest levels for 2016

Today, the world is one step closer to finding out who will be the next National Chef of the Year (NCOTY), (which Direct Seafoods are proud to sponsor) with the announcement of the competition’s semi-finalists. The Craft Guild of Chefs has also revealed that this year saw the highest recorded level of interest in the competition ever, with 159 entries on the new National Chef of the Year website and over 400 chefs registered to view the brief.

To celebrate the impressive number of chefs who entered and registered, the Craft Guild has released some key figures from the competition so far:

National Chef of the Year in Numbers:

  • 159 entry forms received from hopeful chefs
  • Back in 1972, in the competition’s first year just 19 chefs entered, highlighting the dramatic rise of what is now regarded as the UK’s most prestigious culinary title
  • 11 expert judges deliberated for over 20 hours each, that’s 220 hours in total, to whittle the entries down to the 40 semi-finalists
  • The semi-finals will last for a total of 360 minutes, at the end of which just 10 chefs will be announced as finalists
  • With the toughest skills test yet, the judges’ focus will be on three key elements, a perfect risotto, an innovative chicken dish and a stunning choux pastry dessert
  • Chefs from over 500 different establishments have entered NCOTY since it began in 1972.

David Mulcahy, Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of the National Chef of the Year competition, commented on the competition so far:

“As the leading culinary challenge in the UK today and recognised across the industry, the National Chef of the Year is as strong today as it was in 1972 when it was first introduced. Following the paper entry stage all judges agreed that the standard this year has improved on recent years, and I have no doubt that we are in for a tough competition. The focus on a very clear set of skills at the semi-final stage will determine who deserves to go through to the final stages where they will be able to show their own personal innovation and skills with what will be the best mystery basket yet. The National Chef of the Year continues to grow and develop and to reflect today’s fast paced and exciting industry.”

The 40 semi-finalist chefs who made the grade come from around the UK, from a variety of establishments and backgrounds. These include contract caterers, pubs and even food suppliers and colleges, as well as some of the country’s best hotels and restaurants:



Restaurant 23



Tudor Farmhouse Hotel



Trump International



Deanes Eipic



House of Tides



Hipping Hall

Dion Wyn


Lion and pheasant townhouse hotel



Forth Valley College






The Waggon Inn



The Grand Hotel and Spa



The Royal Automobile Club



Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa



Restaurant Associates






Cliveden house






Restaurant Gordon Ramsay



Lough Erne Resort



Petrus Restaurant, Gordon Ramsay



compasses inn



Haywards Restaurant



Great British Chefs



Adam Handling Restaurant Group



Nomura - Restaurant Associates



Restaurant Associates



The Old Government House Hotel and Spa


Mc Creary

The Ritz



The Truscott arms



Levy Restaurants @Excel london



10 Feet Tall



Lusso - CH&Co



The Woodford



Restaurant Associates



Grain Store Cafe and Bar



Anglesea Arms



The Thomas Cubitt






Fishmore Hall Hotel


Retnakumar Geetha

Hilton Hotels UK

Chairman of Judges, Clare Smyth MBE, commented on this year’s competitors:

 “What’s fantastic about this competition is not only does the number of entrants grow each year but the quality of the entries continues to rise. Having discussed the entries and menus at length with my fellow judges I know it is going to be a very tough, close and exciting semi-final. On a personal note, I’m delighted to see five female chefs make the top 40 which is the highest we’ve ever had and is something as a committee we’ve really encouraged for the last few years. I hope the chefs will grab this opportunity with both hands and ensure they are ready for it!"

Following the semi-finals, the ten highest scoring chefs will then face the ultimate challenge in the NCOTY final on the 4th October at the Restaurant Show. 

Harry Guy is the Roux Scholar 2016


Harry Guy, support and development chef for the Eden Hotel Collection in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, has won the 2016 Roux Scholarship. Guy beat five other finalists in a highly contested final held at Westminster Kingsway College, London, on Monday 4th April, where they were asked to prepare and serve Norfolk black chicken cooked en croûte, cardoon gratin and tarragon sauce.

The 26-year-old chef, who made it through to the regional finals last year, was battling it out against Martin Carabott of the Royal Automobile Club, London, Ben Champkin from L'Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria, Scott Dineen of Goldman Sachs (BaxterStorey), London, Paul Matthews from Fieldfisher (Vacherin), London, and Tim Peirson of Kensington Place, Kensington, London.

Commenting on the 33rd national final, Michel Roux Jr said: “At first sight it could seem like this was a straightforward and simple dish. However there were a lot of potential banana skins and Harry’s dish showed exceptional all round skills."

Alain Roux added: “Although it may sound simple we chose this dish because it’s technically challenging due to all the component parts. We were looking for suet dough with the perfect bite, chicken with maximum flavour, two well made sauces and correctly prepared soft cardoons. Once assembled the test was to cook the dish properly, without it becoming dry. It’s a pie – nothing more and a chef cooking in the UK should know how to cook a pie!”

Pierre Gagnare: “The winner was obviously stressed but in a positive way and he channelled this into his cooking. He had the intelligence to perfectly combine and balance all the elements of his dish. His semi-final dishes also stood out so this made it three out of three for Harry. He will make an excellent Roux Scholar.”

Harry Guy said: “I was apprehensive at the start but figured it out ok. I was hoping for meat so that was good and I was happy with what I produced. It means everything to win! To be in close contact with the Roux family is invaluable and will really push my career forward as it establishes you in the industry.”

The six chefs, all under 30 years old had three hours to cook the Escoffier inspired recipe in front of the judges. Pierre Gagnaire, the legendary three star Michelin chef led the judging in a new role as Honorary President of the Judges 2016. First time chairmen of the judges Alain and Michel Jr, were also joined by James Martin, Brian Turner, the first scholar Andrew Fairlie as well as previous winners Simon Hulstone (2003 scholar) and André Garrett (2002 scholar).

The winner was announced at a glittering awards ceremony at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in front of an audience of prestigious guests, top chefs and leading figures from the world of hospitality. For the first time in the history of the competition the awards ceremony was live streamed via the Roux Scholarship website.

The Eden Hotel Collection chef, who previously worked at L’Enclume, receives £6,000, and an invitation to cook and train under the supervision of a leading chef at a prestigious three star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world for up to three months.

It is estimated that more than 12,000 companies exceed the GBP 36 million turnover threshold.

Direct Seafoods are proud to supply Hilton Hotels in the UK, as Hilton Worldwide Becomes First Global Hotel Company to Serve MSC Certified Sustainable Cod across Europe

Hilton Worldwide (NYSE:HLT) today announced it is the first global hotel company to serve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-labelled and certified cod in its restaurants in 41 properties across the U.K., Netherlands and Belgium. These properties have achieved MSC chain of custody certified status, and Hilton’s 41 remaining luxury and full-service owned, leased and managed properties in these countries are on track to receive MSC chain of custody certification by 2017.

This landmark step is part of Hilton’s strategy toward more responsible and sustainable sourcing around the world. Last April, the company implemented a shark fin ban across all restaurants and F&B facilities globally, and in March this year, Hilton Singapore became the first hotel in Asia to achieve MSC chain of custody certification.

Maxime Verstraete, vice president, sustainability, Hilton Worldwide, said: "Today’s announcement is part of our long term commitment to responsible sourcing while at the same time maintaining the highest culinary standards. Seafood is a popular choice with our guests, and it’s critical that we include sustainable fishing practices in our sourcing strategy if it is to remain available in the future. With clear MSC labelling now on our menus in 41 restaurants in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium, we are giving our guests more and more sustainable seafood choices.”

Over a quarter (28.8%) of the world’s marine stocks are overfished or depleted, with a further two thirds (61.3%) fished as intensively as they can be[1]. The MSC is an independent global organisation set up to tackle the problem of overfishing by recognising and rewarding sustainable fisheries through its certification and eco-labelling programme. Certified Hilton hotels will now use the MSC’s striking ecolabel to highlight which menu items are from certified sustainable fisheries.

Rupert Howes, CEO of the MSC said: “This certification clearly establishes Hilton as a leader within the hotel sector. By getting 41 hotels MSC chain of custody certified across Europe they are sending a clear message that sustainable seafood sourcing is taken seriously at Hilton. The pledge shows that Hilton has a deep-rooted commitment to sustainable seafood and by choosing MSC certified cod, Hilton is rewarding fishermen who have demonstrated their sustainability, helping to make sure our oceans are protected for generations to come.”

The news follows Hilton’s announcement with WWF to collaborate to evolve the hospitality company's global business practices and reduce its impact on the environment. As part of this work, Hilton is focusing on sustainable seafood, which includes procuring from fisheries and farms meeting the most comprehensive and credible standards – Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified farms. These efforts, in conjunction with supply chain engagement and education, aim to ensure the viability of seafood sources and healthier oceans.

As a leading global hospitality company, Hilton encourages its hotels to increase their use of sustainable products and services where feasible, and proactively examine opportunities to improve sustainability performance across their supply chains. This commitment supports the 'Living Sustainably' pillar of Hilton’s global corporate responsibility strategy, Travel with Purpose.

What the UK’s new anti-slavery laws mean for seafood


While environmental sustainability certainly topped the international seafood agenda throughout the first 15 years of the current century, today, the supply chain’s No. 1 concern relates to social and ethical issues.

This elevation was initially prompted by The Guardian newspaper’s six-month investigation in 2014 that found large numbers of men were being held against their will and put to work on fishing boats off the coast of Thailand. It was established that this particular case of modern slavery was directly linked to shrimp farming and that a lot of the end products were being sold around the world in leading supermarkets.

Subsequent exposes have found further examples of labor and human rights abuse in the seafood supply chain, including human trafficking, child labor, debt bondage, forced labor and slavery, and not just in Thailand.

Roger Plant, ethics consultant and author of the new report, “Ethical issues impacting the UK seafood supply chain,” published by Seafish, told last month’s World Seafood Congress (WSC) 2015 in Grimsby that slavery at sea was now recognized as a serious concern for the seafood industry everywhere.

Though the main focus has been on Thailand, stakeholders must look beyond that country’s borders, including scrutinizing activities in the United Kingdom, he said. Indeed, U.K. Government figures estimate there could be as many as 13,000 people who remain trapped in modern-day slavery in Britain. They include women forced into prostitution, domestic staff who are imprisoned, and people forced to work in fields, factories and on fishing boats.

Plant also stressed that the Modern Slavery Act 2015, launched in the United Kingdom in March, will have major implications for the seafood industry.

The new act has made slavery a specific offense, and people traffickers now face the prospect of life jail sentences, instead of the previous maximum of 14 years. It also allows traffickers’ assets to be seized and given to victims as compensation payments.

Furthermore, from this month, all companies with a turnover of GBP 36 million (EUR 49 million; USD 55.1 million) or more doing business in the United Kingdom with supply chains elsewhere in the world are obliged to report on what they are doing to ensure their business and supply chains are free from slavery by publishing an annual slavery and human trafficking statement.

Each company must publish its first statement before the end of its current financial year. In this statement, it must describe the steps it has taken in its supply chain or its own business, or it must disclose that it has taken no such steps. Essentially, it must say what that business is actively doing; it doesn’t necessarily have to give a clean bill of health.

It is estimated that more than 12,000 companies exceed the GBP 36 million turnover threshold.

There are, of course, several seafood companies that fall into this bracket and the implication for many of those businesses is that they will have to delve into each individual product’s chain and follow it right back to the beginning to verify whether slavery is an issue. In the case of aquaculture products, that means analyzing the fishmeal chain too.

Stephen Oswald, CEO of Bidvest Fresh, which trades as Direct Seafoods, told SeafoodSource that he believes seafood companies should be looking to go a step further than detailing what if any measures they are taking. Instead, he wants to see the industry ensure slavery and human trafficking is fully eliminated from the supply chain.

“It’s important that we continue to show leadership. In terms of sustainability and addressing environmental challenges, the seafood industry has come a long way in the last 10 years. Going forward, it’s clear to me that all businesses need to dramatically expand their sustainability scope and incorporate a comprehensive social-ethical plan to rid our supply chain of these abhorrent practices. As a CEO, I know this won’t be an easy process, but it needs to be done,” said Oswald.

“It is a massive undertaking to guarantee your whole supply chain,” confirmed Laky Zervudachi, director of sustainability and epicurean at Direct Seafoods. “All one can really do is get started on that road.

“We will need to have published our statement by our year-end in June 2016. Our aim, however, is to have it in place much sooner and our legal team is currently working with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) on our statement as well as ensuring we give the right response to related queries in the meantime.”

Six months ago, Direct Seafoods became the first seafood supplier to the U.K. catering trade to join the ETI, and Zervudachi said the business will use the support of the alliance to move the statement process forward, particularly with regard to better understanding what ethical auditing is, who can conduct these audits and what sort of questions they should be asking.

At the moment, this is a grey area for everyone, he said.

“For example, the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA’s) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification program does take on some social-ethical auditing, and if we are importing BAP 4-star shrimp then I would hope that the social auditing is done for us. But ultimately, we have to take a degree of responsibility and do some of it ourselves. We can’t take everything for granted.

“That’s why I think we are heading toward a point whereby everything in aquaculture will need to be certified through a third-party audit.”

While Zervudachi expects the route to fulfilling Direct Seafoods’ statement obligation to be “long and challenging,” he also believes that membership of the ETI has paved at least part of the way. It has also laid the groundwork for an ethics team to operate within the business.

As a Foundation Member of ETI, Direct Seafoods is expected to put in place policies, resources and strategies needed to develop a credible ethical trading program. Membership also requires it to improve working conditions throughout its supply chain through the adoption of an ETI Base Code of labor practice and to deliver a comprehensive report after 18 months of membership that describes the measures being taken.

Zervudachi also hopes that membership of the ETI will allow Direct Seafoods to hang on the coattails of some of the big retailers who have been involved in the alliance a lot longer – to get some support through open dialogue and then “better understand the problems that are out there and see some of the solutions that are available.”

Alongside ETI, he said Seafish’s Seafood Ethics Common Language Group (SECLG), which was set up last year, has been proving “elucidating” in terms of what is going on in the main production regions around the world to tackle unethical practices.

“It has been brilliant in pulling a lot of important intelligence together and sharing it among stakeholders to create much-needed common understanding,” said Zervudachi.

Direct Seafoods at the Universal Cookery and Food Festival

Direct Seafoods, suppliers of fresh fish and seafood to caterers throughout the UK and Ireland; will be exhibiting at the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Universal Cookery and Food Festival, UCFF, on the 23rd September 2015. Direct Seafoods will be supported by other specialist fresh food businesses from the Bidvest Fresh Group.

Oliver Kay Produce’s Development Chef Laurence Tottingham, will be on-stand showcasing a wide range of fresh and seasonal produce along with fresh fish, meat and dairy from the Bidvest Fresh companies, via a series of food tastings and live skills demonstrations. Laurence’s experience includes a tenure with Heston Blumenthal at the iconic Fat Duck and Hinds Head restaurants, before going on to set up the award winning ‘Aumbry’ restaurant with renowned chef Mary Ellen Mctague. 

Laurence comments; “UCFF offers a fantastic opportunity to showcase seasonality and provenance of the extensive variety of fresh products available from Bidvest Fresh’s businesses . We look forward to sharing some fantastic food throughout the day with such a respected group of industry peers.”

Laurence is being joined on-stand by Laky Zervudachi, Direct Seafoods Director of Sustainability, who will be available to discuss the important issue of sustainability within the seafood industry, as well as representatives from Careilian Caviar, who will be providing delegates with luxurious tasting opportunities later in the day.

UCFF, which this year takes up residence at Vallum Farm, Northumberland, is dubbed the ‘Glastonbury for Chefs’ and delivers provenance, sustainability, trends, seasonality and development education for attending chefs and caterers from across the UK.

For more information about UCFF visit

Direct Seafoods are proud to sponsor the Roux Scholarship


Ian Scaramuzza, head chef at Claude Bosi’s two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus in London, has won the 2015 Roux Scholarship. He beat five other finalists who all prepared ‘Turban of sole and salmon à la marinière’ at a cook-off held at Westminster Kingsway, London on Monday 30 March.

Scaramuzza, 29, who entered the competition for the first time this year, was battling it out against fellow chefs Scott Dineen, Goldman Sachs, (BaxterStorey), London; Gavin Edney, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire; Sabrina Gidda, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, (Restaurant Associates), London; Daniel Lee, JP Morgan, (Aramark), London and Richard Pascoe, The Feversham Arms Hotel, Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

Commenting on Scaramuzza’s win, Michel Roux Jr said: “Ian’s dish was straightforward, not too elaborate but the taste and technique won the day. He used the truffle superbly, it shined, and balanced well with the sorrel which can be quite tart. All the judges enjoyed it and we had a good feed.”

Alain Roux added: “Ian stood out because he showed us an excellent all round performance. Ian is a talented, yet humble chef, he will make a great scholar.”

Scaramuzza, born in Glasgow, previously worked for the first Roux Scholar, Andrew Fairlie, at his restaurant within the Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterader, Scotland, said: “I enjoyed it. It was tough but I was quite happy, although a little panicky at the start. The pressure of the competition got to me a bit. I’d have loved an extra ten minutes to improve the presentation. It was a good tough dish, nothing I’d cooked or even seen before, a pure challenge.”

The young chefs had three hours to cook the Escoffier inspired recipe in front of the judges. Joining the Roux family this year were Andrew Fairlie, Angela Hartnett MBE, James Martin, David Nicholls, Gary Rhodes OBE and Brian Turner CBE.

Scaramuzza receives £6,000, and an invitation to cook and train under the supervision of a leading chef at a prestigious 3-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world for up to three months.

“I’d like to go to Benu in San Francisco for my stage. It’s a small kitchen and there’s nowhere to hide. It’ll be busy.” Ian said afterwards.

Direct Seafoods are proud to sponsorThe Roux Scholarship along with a number of other companies including: Bridor, Cactus TV, The Caterer, Fairfax Meadow, Global Knives, Hildon, Kikkoman, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, L’Unico Caffe Musetti, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Restaurant Associates and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Now in its 32nd year, the scholarship offers the winner a career changing opportunity: a three-month stage at a three Michelin starred restaurant anywhere in the world. But that’s just the beginning. The winner is then part of an elite club and on a fast track to the top of the profession. The Roux Scholarship is the premier competition for young chefs in the UK and ranks among the most prestigious in the world.

For more information about the Roux Scholarship please

Seafood Holdings Limited (trading as Direct Seafoods)
Registered in England Number 04227047  |  VAT Number GB173 9880 60
Unit 10-14, Cedar Way Industrial Estate, Camley Street,
London, N1C 4PD

Phone: 01206 584 790

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Proud Sponsors of The National Chef of the Year 

        NCOTY Main


Direct Seafoods

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