Leo Kattou of Simpsons crowned BCF chef of the year 2021

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Leo Kattou has been crowned chef of the year 2021 by the British Culinary Federation (BCF) at the first in-person event to be held by the organisation for three years. 

The head chef at Simpsons in Birmingham secured the first spot, winning a £2,500 cash prize, a trip to Ireland and a year's subscription to BCF.

Matt Nicholls of Cheal's restaurant - BCF's Young Chef of the Year in 2018 - was the first runner up, and head chef at The Frog by Adam Handling, Cleverson Cordeiro, the second.

Warmly welcomed by the team at University College Birmingham (UCB), the 12 finalists - Mathew Ramsdale, Chester Grosvenor; Harvey Perttola, Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Fort William; Matt Nicholls, Cheal’s Restaurant, Henley-in-Arden; Martin Hodgetts, University College Birmingham; Robert Broome,North Hertfordshire College; Luciano Lucioli, private chef; Robert Marshall, The Square Peg, Tunbridge Wells; Conor Bird, House of Commons; Cleverson Cordeiro, The Frog by Adam Handling; Mehdi Lahmadi,        Coworth Park, Dorchester Collection; Leo Kattou, Simpsons Restaurant, Birmingham and Gary Kilminster, chef and business development manager at  Essential Cuisine - cooked and three courses in two hours, demonstrating their ability to plan and work under pressure outside of their own kitchens.

The dishes then went to a panel of judges comprised of Brian Turner CBE, chef Sat Bains, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Le Gavroche's Rachel Humphrey, executive chef at Coworth Park Adam Smith and sous-chef at The Ritz and 2018 BCF chef of the year, Ian Musgrave.

The awards ceremony and dinner followed at The Restaurant at UCB, cooked by the students and led by deputy head of The College of Food, Lewis Walker. 

Asked how the finals unfolded for him, Leo said: "It was nerve-racking, but it was fantastic. The main thing that I set out for myself this morning was to just enjoy it and that's what I did. I went in there with a smile on my face, I didn't put any pressure on myself and I just cooked away." 

The competition, he said, was "tough." 

"It always is - these things are never easy. Competing against these guys today, they're brilliant cooks all of them, we're all very proud of what we've done today." 

The fact that the competition even exists, he said, "is brilliant, because they are a lot of chefs growing every year and it's good for all of us to be motivated and compete with each other,"

Meanwhile, judge Adam Smith said the competition was "really good - there was a good calibre of entries, they all work in really great places." 

As far as the food is concerned, "there was a wide range of styles and ingredients, the standards were very high." 

"The winner had two courses that stood out as exceptional, they were the best course on both counts. It's been a really good day."

"It's so nice to get everyone back together again, to be able to judge people again and not to be doing it on Zoom or having to deal with delays. We're back to some sort of normality."

"It's really good for the whole industry, obviously as well as the chefs competing, the category judges who I've known for many years and not seen for a couple of years - it was all round a good day on the social side and most importantly some great food."


In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 18th October 2021

Leo Kattou of Simpsons crowned BCF chef of the year 2021