Record nine chefs compete for coveted National Chef of Wales title

A record nine chefs competed on the first day of the Welsh International Culinary Championships to be crowned National Chef of Wales.

The chefs from across Wales took part in the final, each cooking a three-course menu for 12 people featuring six Welsh GI products, yesterday (Monday).

The high quality final was held at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) hosted by the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales), Newport and organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW).

The chefs were challenged to cook a vegan starter followed by a main course using two different cuts of GI Welsh Lamb and a dessert featuring Denbigh plums, ice cream, chocolate and biscuit or tuille.

The finalists included Ryan Jones, head chef at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, who is looking to win the coveted title for a second time, having previously been victorious in 2014.

Last year’s finalists Jamie Tully, executive chef Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen, Llanidloes; Wayne Barnard, junior sous chef at Benito Luis, Caerleon and Matthew Owen, head chef at The Celtic Manor, Newport, returned to compete again.

First time finalists were Angharad Rockall, head chef at Heronston Hotel and Spa, Bridgend; Joshua Morris, senior sous chef Palé Hall Hotel, Llandderfel, Bala; Rebekah Wright, sous chefs at The Celtic Manor/The Celtic Collection, Newport; Harry Paynter-Roberts, sous chef at Carden Park Hotel and Spa, Chester and William Richards, training officer with Cambrian Training from Pontyclun.

The winner, who will be announced at an awards dinner on Wednesday night, will have an opportunity to attend the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026, which is being hosted at ICC Wales. He or she will also win a set of engraved Friedr Dick competition knives and £250 of Churchill products.

Tickets for the awards dinner, costing £1,000 for tables of 12 or £100 for individuals, are on sale at .

This is the first time the WICC has been held at ICC Wales, in the country’s biggest hospitality skills event. Over three days, chefs, butchers, front of house workers and apprentices, competing in the Skills Competition Wales hospitality finals, will show their skills in action.

The WICC is open free of charge to the public and hospitality trade.

The WICC reports record entries, with hundreds of chefs, butchers and front of house workers competing over three days at the biggest hospitality skills event Wales has ever seen.

The Junior Chef of Wales final is being held today (Tuesday) together with the Wales heats of the Major Chefs Challenge and the 2024 Riso Gallo Young Risotto Chef Challenge.

The finalists are: Abbie Williams, a learner at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw Campus, who was runner up last year; Katie Duffy, chef at The Halfway, Llanelli; Ged Jones, chef de partie at Carden Park Hotel, Chester; Dylan Evans, commis chef at L’enclume, Cartmel; Nathan Kelly, sous chef at Spirit Restaurant, Warrington; Rhys Yorath, chef de partie at Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol; Aizel Reyes, commis chef at The Celtic Collection, Newport; Rosie Koffer, chef de partie at Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen, Llanidloes; Kye Roberts, chef de partie at Dm Catering, Milford Haven and Sam Everton, junior sous chef at Y Seler, Aberaeron.

Skills Competition Wales aims to raise the profile of skills in Wales and is part of the Welsh Government funded Inspiring Skills Excellence Programme. Students, trainees and apprentices are given a chance to challenge, benchmark and raise their skills by taking part in competitions across a range of sectors.

After cooking his menu, Jones said: “I was happy with all three courses and had forgotten how much I missed the competition buzz. I loved it and hope to return the favour next year by being the commis chef for my sous chef Gareth Pugh.”

Barnard, a regular in the final, said: “It all went really well and I loved the experience of competing in the final again.”

Tully’s verdict was: “Compared to last year’s final, it was 100 times better and I was happy with my dishes. I attended a judges seminar last year to learn what they are looking for, so hopefully they liked my dishes.”

Owen was also happy with his dishes. “A few things could have gone better with the timings but I think I cooked some good food and hopefully the judges agree,” he said.

Rockall was another happy chef in her first ever competition. “We had one or two errors which we managed to rectify,” she said. “I really enjoyed the competition and will definitely be back.”

Paynter-Roberts said: “I really enjoyed the competition and everything went to plan. I was happy with the dishes and I finished on time which is something I hadn’t managed in practice.”

Morris, who competed in the Junior Chef of Wales a few years ago, said: “I was very happy with the three dishes and it was a very enjoyable final.”

Richards said he was “reasonably” happy with his dishes but felt the lamb in his main course needed more time to rest. “It’s good to test your skills against like-minded chefs but competing in the final does take a huge amount of planning and commitment,” he added.

Wright said: “It was a lot different to what I was anticipating, as I had not competed for 10 years. I am a two AA rosette sous chef and I tried to demonstrate, as much as I could, the style of food that I cook in the restaurant.”

CAW president Arwyn Watkins, OBE, says the WICC will be the launchpad for the road to Wales hosting the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026 at ICC Wales.

The WICC’s headline sponsors are the Welsh Government, Castell Howell, Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotion Wales, ICC Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Kentaur, Churchill, MCS Technical Products, Roller Grill, Radnor Hills, Dick Knifes, Cygnet Gin, Capital Cuisine, Ecolab, City & Guilds and Compass Cymru.

Picture caption:

Wayne Barnard competing in the National Chef of Wales final at the Welsh International Culinary Championships at the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport yesterday (Monday)

National Chef of Wales finalist Rebekah Wright focusing on her cooking.

National Chef of Wales finalist Ryan Jones puts the finishing touches to his dessert.