young chef top tips


Read the application form

This sounds obvious, but reading the application form from start to finish will ensure you understand all the requirements. “Make sure you read it a couple of times,” recommends Hajime Horiguchi, Tanto This gives you the time to think about everything you want to say about your philosophy on food & cooking as well as your recipes.

Start your application early

Applications open in January and you can submit your application anytime from then until they close on the 9 April 2018…Aaron Ward young chef 2016 from sixpenny says “don’t leave filling in your application too late. It takes time and if you are going to enter put in the effort to make it right. Starting early also means you are able to practice your dish before you submit your application. It may be easy or something you have cooked a hundred times before, but under pressure of a time limit and the judges’ eye it’s tough”.

Ask for advice

Find a mentor, run it past your mum, dad, talk to your head chef or find one of our past finalists to talk to. Understand that there are people to support you if you have any questions. “Take your time and get as many people as you can to proof read it. Every opinion matters” says George Tomlin, The Clove Club, London

Use spell check

Spelling errors and bad grammar look sloppy, so make sure you check your application form thoroughly. Get someone else to read it, too. Chances are, if they don’t know what you’re talking about, neither will our judges. “Ask friends or mentors to read your application and give you an honest opinion” Thiago Miranda 2016 National Finalist from Lume

Be consistent

Your application form should reflect what you truly believe. “Anything you put down will be referenced when you speak to the judges and when you cook, so your food philosophy must be consistent with what you do,”says Jake Davey, est Restaurant.  Plus, “you’ll probably be really nervous in the interviews and your application will almost be as important in portraying who you are as a person” says Hanz Gueco, Verjus Paris

Think seasonally

You’ll need to create a seasonal menu as part of your application, so make sure you know what’s in season rather than guessing or what you think might be seasonal. “Use produce that is in its peak during autumn as you’ll get the best flavour from that ingredient. Don’t try to come up with it in an hour,” says Jake Kellie

Keep it simple

When creating your seasonal menu, remember that you may need to produce it under pressure. “Keep it simple, but still demonstrate knowledge of flavour combinations, ingredients and technique,” says Soren Lascelles, Grand Hyatt Singapore “It should be simple enough that you are in control if you do make the cook-off.” and “Keep your dishes focused but simple. Allow yourself the opportunity to engage with the judges” recommends Matt Binney, Merricote

Practice your dish

You need to make sure that the flavours and your dish work as ninety minutes goes really quickly in a different kitchen. Remember, the judges are chefs too, so you want to make sure it works, “Make sure what you come up with is achievable within the allotted time, get as many people to try it as possible,” says  Jake Davey, est Restaurant and Aaron Ward, sixpenny recommends you, “time the cooking of your dishes. There is a time limit for a reason, so make sure you can cook your dishes with in that time frame.”

Have a plan

Preparation is key when it comes to the cook-off, so go in with a clear idea of what you need to do. “Have an idea of how your plate should look, as the judges will be watching you,” says Victor Liong, Lee Ho Fook.“Have a back-up plan. Your first idea might just not work so have a plan b, or just be open minded to other options” recommends Aaron Ward.

Be confident

Even if you don’t feel it, don’t second guess yourself, but be adaptable. Victor Liong, Lee Ho Fook says, “if it doesn’t go your way, your Plan B is your Plan A.” More importantly, remember what you do know, techniques, ingredients and how to work in a kitchen. Focus on what you know, be yourself and speak from your heart

Don’t give up

Just doing the application can help you think about where you want to be and how to get there, “everybody should give it a go cause you’ll learn so much about yourself”, says Hanz Gueco. Didn’t make the finals last year? Try again this year. A number of our finalists and winners were successful on their second, or even third, attempt.  “Have a go – there is nothing to lose,” says Frank Fawkner, EXP Restaurant.