Young Chef Young Waiter 2021 Final to be hosted by the UK at Expo 2020 Dubai

23 June 2021

Thanks to a new partnership with the Department for International Trade, Young Chef Young Waiter 2021 will be stepping up to a global audience this year, taking 20 UK semi-finalists to battle it out with the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE.

Entries are now open here.

They will be joined by judges including Michelin star chef Theo Randall, Theo Randall at the InterContinental and Simon King, Founder of Igniting Hospitality as well as COO Richard Caring Group.

YCYW finalists

The Young Chef Young Waiter of the Year competition, in association with UKHospitality and the Restaurant Association, has been honouring the best young chefs and waiters in the UK since 1979. It highlights the remarkable skills of the finest young professionals building their careers in the industry. Past winners include Raymond Blanc OBE, Heston Blumenthal OBE and Angela Hartnett MBE.

Expo 2020 Dubai will provide a global platform to showcase British innovation, creativity and collaboration across the six months, from students and families to celebrities and heads of Government. Under the UK’s participation theme ‘Innovating for a shared future’ the topic of how we utilise technology and innovation to grow, consume and provide food sustainably will be a key point of discussion across the six months.

The Young Chef Young Waiter awards ceremony will take place in the stunning UK Pavilion, produced by Avantgarde and designed by Es Devlin. Previous UK pavilions at World Expos have featured menus from some of the UK’s top chefs, including Tom Aikens, Angela Hartnett, Ken Hom and Tom Kitchin.

Jo Crellin, Senior Responsible Owner for the UK at Expo 2020 Dubai, comments:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the talented contestants of Young Chef Young Waiter to demonstrate their ability on a world stage. The UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will showcase some of our future stars within the food and hospitality industry – a sector where we have a proud history of excellence and innovation.”

Robert Walton MBE, president of the Restaurant Association and founder of The Nth Degree, Global comments: “As the past Chairman of the competition from 2006 to 2012, I was delighted to relaunch the Young Chef Young Waiter concept and give a new generation a fantastic opportunity to excel in the hospitality industry. Young Chef Young Waiter in 2019 and 2020 exceeded all of our expectations and were a spectacular success. Our ambitions for this competition are global and it is thanks to our new partnership with the Department for International Trade that Young Chef Young Waiter and our 20 UK semi-finalists, who will be aged 26 and under, will be travelling to Dubai this year. This is a huge step for the future of the hospitality industry and is the perfect opportunity to showcase British creativity and talent, plus expose the semi finalists to a world stage. We can’t wait for entries to open and to meet the next round of contestants.”

Head chef judge Theo Randall, proprietor of Theo Randall at the InterContinental: “We are so excited with the prospect of moving the Young Chef Young Waiter competition to an international arena. Dubai is such a modern and fast paced place, it is the perfect environment to put our young semi finalists through their paces. The results in 2019 were phenomenal and our Young Chef winner, Richard Henderson, was a fantastic character and had a really calm persona in the kitchen. He cooked really well under stress and his final dishes were absolutely flawless. We are all amazed by his personality and think he is going to go a long way in the industry.”

Our head waiter judge Simon King, Founder of Igniting Hospitality comments: “For me being the head judge for YCYW is very special, it’s a completion of my journey as I was fortunate enough to win the competition in 2000. I still remember how it felt, who I competed with and what I learnt about myself. The idea of going to Dubai is very exciting and will further revitalise the competition from last year. Holding the semi-final as part of Expo 2020 Dubai will make it more relevant, engaging, fun and educational, reflecting the modern challenges young professionals now face and showcase the breadth of skill and talent they now need to excel in this industry. Our Young Waiter winner from last year, Alessandro Calzavacca, is a credit to the competition. He is clearly very passionate, unbelievably composed and his attention to detail across all our tasks was noted by all our judges. We think he has a very bright future ahead of him in hospitality.”

Head waiter judge for YCYW China / South East Asia, Andy Downton said: “I am very humbled to be a head judge for the UK, Asia / China YCYW finals 2020, this year the level of young waiters really has exceeded my expectations with everyone of them being extremely strong & great ambassadors for our fantastic industry, too pick out a winner certainly hasn’t been easy for us. Having the opportunity to judge, guide & meet our competitors this year really reaffirms my belief that now is the time for us to help grow the next generation of FOH so that the restaurants continue to go from strength to strength & YCYW will certainly become a standout benchmark going forward to help make this happen.”

Chef judge Brian Turner CBE said: “It is always a privilege to be able to judge the UK’s top young chefs and young waiters in action and this year was no exception. The opportunity of cooking and serving in such wonderful arenas was a unique experience for our young talented finalists, sharing their skills to a great level.”

Chef judge Mario Perera said: “What a great opportunity for me and the culinary team to host this event at The Dorchester. I believe it’s a privilege and an honour to judge such young and talented individuals as they come into the limelight. You never know, they might even end up becoming a great chef at The Dorchester one day.”

Chairwoman of Young Chef Young Waiter China / South East Asia Ching He Huang said: “It has been wonderful to be Chairwoman of YCYW-China / South East Asia 2020. The contestants have showed great passion, attitude and dedication to their craft, it has been an absolute pleasure to see them all in action this year at Michelin starred Kai restaurant in Mayfair. This competition is an opportunity for our China/SE Asia sector to step up and invest in the next generation of talent. YCYW is a fantastic platform to support them, to help develop their skills, to nurture them in the next stage of their career and provide an important network for their future. It has been a huge honour for myself and all the leading Chef and Waiter judges which include Chef Ken Hom, Andrew Wong, Tony Truong, Sanjay Dwivedi, Alex Chow, Bernard Yeoh and Andy Downton. I am very excited for YCYW 2021 and for the final to be held in Dubai at Expo 2020. I look forward to working with the YCYW team.”

Andrew Wong said: “It’s been a privilege watching the next generation interpreting the beautifies of China’s 3000 year of gastronomic history, embracing its incredible techniques and flavours with their own individual touches.”

2019 Young Chef winner Richard Henderson said: ”2019 was a brilliant year for me, winning Young Chef Young Waiter really has changed my life. To think I nearly stopped cooking altogether in 2018, and in just over a year I’ve managed to rekindle my passion, creativity and interest, that inspires me to keep learning – has felt amazing! This has all been possible because people believed in me when I didn’t. Hywel Jones, who mentored me from 2012, was one of the main people who inspired me to cook again, and from that belief and his encouragement I entered these competitions. Since entering them, I have started to really believe in myself again. I’m excited to hear that this year the Young Chef Young Waiter final will be held in Dubai at Expo 2020, what a fantastic opportunity for all the contestants to attend such a huge event.”

Further opportunities to be involved in the UK programme at this major world event are still available. Further information on sponsorship, exhibiting or showcasing innovation in hospitality and catering can be found at:


The 20 UK semi-finalists selected by our expert judges will compete at the Competition Finals in Dubai:

Monday 15 November: Semi Final: 10 Chefs and 10 Waiters

Tuesday 16 November: Final: 5 Chefs and 5 Waiters

Tuesday 16 November: Winners will be announced on the stunning UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE on the evening.

The competition is open to young chefs and waiters under the age of 26 and includes those who may be temporarily unable to work or been furloughed from their present roles due to Covid-19.

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