History of Young Chef Young Waiter

Celebrating 44 years of industry talent.

Young Chef Young Waiter launched in 1979 to promote hospitality as a career of choice, a profession, and a vocation. Following a 12 year hiatus, the competition returned in spectacular fashion in 2019 by The Nth Degree Global in partnership with UKHospitality and the Restaurant Association.

As president of the Restaurant Association and founder of The Nth Degree Global, Robert Walton MBE was perfectly placed to update this national competition. The Young Chef Young Waiter competition is a national competition open to all young professional waiters and chefs from any background. The event is supporting The Springboard Charity’s FutureChef and the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Adopt a School.

In 2019, Richard Henderson and Alessandro Calzavacca were named Young Chef and Young Waiter of the Year respectively. The winners were announced at the awards ceremony presented by John Torode of BBC TV’s MasterChef at Quaglino’s restaurant in London.

In 2020, the competition winners were announced at The Dorchester which included YCYW China & South East Asia with Chairwoman Ching He Huang. The overall winners of the Young Chef Young Waiter UK and China & South East Asia competition for 2020, both won a Mercedes-Benz A Class including insurance for a year, were: Peter Meechan (UK YCYW Young Chef of the Year) and Marie Bouquet (China & South East Asia Young Waiter of the Year).

In 2021, thanks to a new partnership with the Department for International Trade, Young Chef Young Waiter 2021 stepped up to a global audience, taking 20 UK semi-finalists to battle it out at the Aloft Creek Hotel. Winners were announced at the spectacular UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE. UK Young Chef of the Year for 2021 was Connor Blades from Ugly Butterfly by Adam Handling and the UK Young Waiter of the Year 2021 was Sophie Heyer from The Promenade at The Dorchester. The competition took place at the Aloft Dubai Creek with Head Chef Judge Adam Handling and Head Waiter Judge Simon King supported by Andy Downton, Sudqi Naddaf, Andrea La Cognata and Nicholas Reina. Sponsors for Young Chef Young Waiter 2021 include Carrefour, Aloft Dubai Creek, Dojo and Arla Pro.


In 2022, World Young Chef Young Waiter launched to take the concept to a global audience with 7 countries from around the world competing for the title of World YCYW Champion. The competition brought together the best Chef and Waiter duo from seven countries to compete at the Maybourne Riviera, Monaco crowning Welsh Duo Chef Ali Halbert and Waiter Tilly Morris as the title holders for World Champions 2022.

World Young Chef Young Waiter Chairman Robert Walton MBE said: “As the Chairman of this event since 2006, I’m delighted to see Young Chef Young Waiter reach the world stage. We’re working with countries around the globe to find the best young talent in hospitality so contestants can demonstrate their best work and passion for their vocation. After the last two challenging years, it is time to unite the winners from each region in a special X Factor style final in November. The awards ceremony is sure to be a star-studded affair to celebrate this prestigious occasion and crown the first ever World Young Chef and Young Waiter.”

World Young Chef Young Waiter Managing Director Sean Valentine FIH said: “We have come such a long way in such a short space of time by developing a UK competition into the global Olympics of hospitality. World Young Chef Young Waiter places our sector at the heart of education, training, and development for young professionals in this wonderful industry. The creation of the World YCYW global community will be at the heart of this competition providing a platform for shared ideas, creativity, and cross fertilisation of talent.”


The competition will hit the global stage again in 2023 being bigger, better and, more sustainable than ever, supporting the global hospitality community and providing a platform for creativity, education and innovation that can be shared by all.

Winners & Judges

Winners and judges have included some the industry’s great recognisable names– Theo Randall, Mark Sargeant, Marcus Wareing, Simon King, John Torode, Anne and Jamain Swarb, Jeremy King, Raymond Blanc OBE, Heston Blumenthal OBE, The Earl of Bradford and Lord Forte.

Head Chef Judge Adam Handling: “With sustainability at the heart of my ethos, it really is about investing in the future generation and making the future of this industry an exciting place to be. It is a real honour to be involved in a young person’s competition, to help mentor them, progress them and give them a spotlight to shine. Having competed in this competition many moons ago and seeing the doors that it opens for its competitors, I would definitely encourage the young talent of this industry to get involved.”

Head Waiter Judge Simon King: “As a previous winner twenty plus years ago, I know how valuable and rewarding the YCYW competition can be as it gave me an incredible platform to build my career and network. There is no better time to showcase the fantastic young talent that this fine profession has to offer and to be able to do it on the world stage is just incredible.”

Judge Jason Atherton: “I’m so pleased to be involved in this year’s Young Chef Young Waiter and to help promote the hospitality industry to young people. It’s fast-paced and hectic but a rewarding exciting industry to be a part of and this competition is a great way for young people to start out.”

Judge Emily Roux: “Without the passion and determination of young chefs and young waiters there would be no future for our industry. There’s nothing quite like working in hospitality and to succeed you have to have a certain level of grit and ambition. This competition gives young talent the opportunity to stand out amongst the others and prove what an exciting and special industry ours is to work in.”

Judge Andy Downton: “When I first moved to London I didn’t know too much about the restaurant world & what a massive part it would play in my life & what a great career it could be, by working hard & having the correct guidance anyone can achieve their goals, now it’s my turn to give back to the next generation & help showcase what a great industry we work in.”

Judge Tom Aikens: “The Young Chef Young Waiter is one of the most respected competitions in the country and one that helps to highlight the very best of home grown talent we have in this industry. It brings together the very best that we have working across the whole of the UK in our restaurants and hotels, its the best way to showcase our future shining stars that can in turn help to attract the next generation of chefs and waiters into this amazing industry of ours. This is a competition that nurtures educates and guides them onto their own career paths and most importantly standing proudly on their own two feet.”

Judge Ollie Dabbous: “It is important that the next generation see cooking and working in front of house as a career, as it is on the continent, rather than as something more transient. It is a demanding career but also a very rewarding one. These competitions are a great way for enthusiastic staff to challenge themselves, improve their skills and raise their profile”.

Judge Jennifer Santner: “Entering competitions such as YCYW has developed me personally and professionally and has pushed my career to the next level. It is a great opportunity for young talents to stand out and show others what an exciting industry we work in. This course is all about education and learning from other young professionals whilst working alongside the legends of our industry.”

Past Winners

Marcus Wareing

Marcus Wareing

Head Chef, Restauranteur

Young Chef of The Year 1995
Then: Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy
Now: Marcus, The Berkeley. The Gilbert Scott. Tredwell’s

Mark Sargeant

Mark Sargeant

Chef Patron

Young Chef of The Year 1996
Then: Oliver Peyton, Coast
Now: The Brasserie MS

Jaxon Keedwell

Jaxon Keedwell

Head Chef

Young Chef of The Year 2000
Then: Personal chef to Sir Paul Getty
Now: The Greenhouse, The Grove

Simon King, Head Judge Waiter

Simon King

Igniting Hospitality

Young Waiter of The Year 2000
Then: The Ritz, Head Waiter
Now: Igniting Hospitality

Matthew Mawtus

Matthew Mawtus

General Manager

Young Waiter of The Year 2007
Then: Gordon Ramsay at Claridges
Now: Hide

Simon Girling

Simon Girling

Restaurant Manager

Judge YCYW 2010, 2011
Now: The Ritz

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