Scottish chef finishes second at National Chef of the Year competition

Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle, has secured the runner up position in the Craft Guild of Chef’s National Chef of the Year competition.

Published 3rd Oct 2019
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

Derek, who joined Borthwick Castle in 2017, finished in second place among 10 finalists who took part in a cook-off on Tuesday 1 October at The Restaurant Show at London’s Olympia Exhibition Centre.

Derek was the only Scottish chef to reach the finals of this highly respected industry competition.

Last month, Derek was presented with a mystery basket containing the ingredients that he would use to create his menu for the competition final.

His three-course menu included pan fried fillet of sea bream, roasted saddle of pork, and vanilla poached William pears with clementine and Valrhona dark chocolate impressed the judges, who described the dishes as “balanced and packed full of flavour.”

The winner of the National Chef of the Year competition was Steve Groves, Head Chef at Roux at Parliament Square.

Launched in 1972 and judged by a panel of more than 40 respected chefs from across the industry, previous winners include Gordon Ramsay, Alyn Williams, Mark Sargeant and Luke Selby.

Speaking of his involvement in the competition, Derek said: “It’s every chef’s dream to compete for the prestigious National Chef of the Year title, and thanks to the support and backing of the team here at Borthwick Castle, that dream has become a reality.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in the National Chef of the Year 2020 competition from start to finish - it’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of it. I’d also like to say congratulations to Steve on a very well-deserved win.”

David Mulcahy, Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of the competition, said: “It was very close for those sought after top spots.

"The National Chef of the Year is one of the toughest culinary challenges and it was neck and neck throughout. The judges were impressed with Derek’s approach to the brief and he used a high level of skill, with all three dishes being balanced and packed full of flavour.

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"It’s a difficult competition which is judged by some of the UK’s most accomplished and Michelin-starred chefs.”

Derek launched his career at a young age, winning the inaugural series of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2008. He later honed his skills working alongside Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche and Albert Roux at Chez Roux.

In 2017, Derek launched an exclusive seasonal Dining Club at Borthwick Castle, which celebrates bespoke, experiential menus paired with fine wines.

Derek’s dishes incorporate modern cooking techniques with contemporary presentation. Coupled with his passion for seasonal produce, Derek’s culinary creations are driving forward Borthwick Castle’s reputation as Scotland’s leading private hire venue for food connoisseurs.

He is also working with garden designer and horticulturalist Pete Jackson to redevelop the private-hire venue’s original walled garden.

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Expected to open in spring 2020, Borthwick Castle’s four-acre walled garden will also be home to Scotland’s first kitchen garden to specialise in growing historic herbs, vegetables and fruits.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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