A TOP North Yorkshire chef is through to the semi-finals of a prestigious culinary competition.

Tom Heywood, co-owner of Pignut, in Helmsley, is in the running to be crowned National Chef of the Year.

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It comes as The Press reported last week that his partner and co-owner Laurissa Cook, scooped an Acorn Award – which recognises 30 of the UK’s hospitality industry’s most talented stars, aged under 30.

Laurissa Cook in PignutLaurissa Cook in Pignut (Image: Mollie Rose Photography)

The news comes as Pignut celebrates their first-year anniversary, as well as Tom being shortlisted for the Sustainability Excellence Award at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards.

The couple met while working at the former Rattle Owl restaurant in Micklegate in York - where Laurisa was restaurant manager - and it is their dream for some time to run their own restaurant.

It’s 31-year-old Tom’s first time entering any competition and he’s “incredibly happy” to have made it to the semi-finals.

Some of the food at PignutSome of the food at Pignut (Image: Mollie Rose Photography)

He said: “It’s the first competition I’ve ever entered so it’s amazing to get through to the semi-finals. I’m really excited and looking forward to the next stages.

“It means a lot to myself but also to the business and it allows me to showcase what we do. National Chef of the Year is a really prestigious competition, and it would be amazing to be recognised among the previous winners who are some of the best chefs in the UK.” 

Pignut in HelmsleyPignut in Helmsley (Image: Supplied)

Ten finalists will be announced on Monday, July 29 and the National Chef Of The Year cook-offs will take place on Tuesday, October 8 at the University of West London. A premiere style awards celebration will take place at the Hippodrome Casino that same evening.

The judges have praised the overall standard of entries, in particular for the “impressive level of chocolate desserts this year”. Other themes spotted by the judges included a strong focus on provenance, sourcing, and food waste. Judges were inspired by reading the many stories about why the dish was chosen or how it represents the chef.

Matt Abé, chef patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, said: “In my first year as Chair of judges, I have loved seeing and scoring every single dish put forward by the competitors. It’s an honour to lead the judging team for such a prestigious culinary title.

“Generally, the standard has been very strong, and we already know that whittling them down from 40 to ten is going to be a challenge. We’re hoping to see chefs in the semi-final really focus on telling their personal story so we as judges can understand the creative thinking behind dishes.”

The National Chef of The Year competition has been running for three decades with previous winners including Gordon Ramsay.

The couple inside the restaurantThe couple inside the restaurant (Image: Mollie Rose Photography)