Vacherin head chef Nick Smith is National Chef of the Year 2021

In what has been described as the toughest National Chef of the Year event in the competition’s 48-year history, Nick Smith, head chef for Vacherin at the London office of global law firm Ashurst, was crowned as the winner in a tense virtual awards ceremony yesterday afternoon. Nick, who competed against chefs from some of the UK’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants, is only the 2nd chef from the workplace sector to ever win this much-coveted title.

Watched by hundreds of the biggest names in hospitality, as part of Hospitality Week, the event saw the streaming of the final which took place at Le Cordon Bleu earlier this month. Viewers saw emotion, passion, blood, sweat and tears from the ten finalists who have shown such resilience and determination in the face of hospitality’s toughest era.  

Nick served up a starter of Gilthead 'gazpacho' Heirloom tomato & cucumber, a main course of Romney Marsh lamb, roe ravigote, fennel, samphire and aster and for dessert Sweet Eve strawberry split, clotted cream, lemon and mint. His dishes truly stood out to Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth who was supported by Clare Smyth, Claude Bosi, Graham Hornigold and former winners, Frederick Forster, Russell Bateman and Kuba Winkowski in making this important decision.

Chair of judges, Paul Ainsworth said: “It is a real honour to be chair of judges and crown Nick Smith as the winner. When I took on this role, I could never have imagined chefs would be facing the extreme challenges this pandemic has brought. It’s hit our industry hard, but the fact these chefs put themselves forward to compete, despite such uncertainty in their professional and personal lives, is so inspiring. Winning NCOTY is about more than cooking delicious food, it’s about being an ambassador for your industry and supporting others. We need winners like Nick to show the world what an amazing industry hospitality is, to encourage others to want to be chefs and to incentivise people to work hard to achieve their own personal dreams.”

Following the announcement Nick said: This is my fifth National Chef of the Year final and winning the competition was my ultimate ambition. It shoes that perseverance really does pay off. I can’t express enough what this means to me, my team at Ashurst and to our sector as a whole. The calibre of chefs and the quality of food we produce in the workplace environment for our clients, their staff and guests can sometimes be overlooked. I hope this shows the extent of the talent and passion and the quality of the catering that corporate chefs and caterers produce.

Managing Director of Vacherin, Phil Roker said “Nick is a remarkable member of the Vacherin team at Ashurst. This competition means everything to him and he has given it his all. He really is a true ambassador for workspace catering and is a fantastic mentor for the trainees, apprentices and students who join Nick and the team to gain work experience. All of us at Vacherin are incredibly proud of him.”