Our in-house consultant chef, David Colcombe, recently judged the British Culinary Federation Young Chef of the Year Award at the University College Birmingham, so we asked for his thoughts on the importance of young chefs taking part in such prestigious competitions.

Why should young chefs consider entering competitions like the BCF Young Chef of the Year?

Young chefs should enter competitions for a number of reasons. The whole process can give them a focus and discipline to match and in some cases out do that of their jobs.

Competitions also provide a great way to build confidence and offer unrivalled experience, as well as the opportunity to achieve something significant at such a young age; a great platform for the rest of their career. Also, prizes from some of the bigger competitions offer life-changing opportunities. 

Did you enter competitions as a young chef? I did enter competitions when I was younger but mostly team competitions such as Le Parade de Chef, in which we had a lot of success. I have, however, enjoyed and been proud to mentor many successful young people over the years, which can be equally as rewarding. 

When did you start judging and have the standards and procedures changed since? I’ve been judging competitions for the last 20 years or so, from local school competitions to national industry competitions. The standard at competitions gets better every year; some of the techniques and end products that chefs are coming up with nowadays really are outstanding. A lot of the dishes from the 2016 BCF Young Chef of the Year competition would have been good enough for the senior competition. 

Do you have any advice for budding chefs looking to get into the industry, and chefs thinking about entering competitions? My advice to young chefs is to not be afraid to enter, just be aware that it does take a lot of dedication and commitment to see it through to the end.

Not everyone feels comfortable in the competition environment, that doesn’t mean that those who don’t enter and win competitions are worse chefs, it just means that they need to apply that dedication and commitment into their everyday work in order to succeed.