Midlothian chef reaches finals of prestigious UK culinary competition

A leading Scottish chef has reached the finals of the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition.

Saturday, 22nd June 2019, 1:41 pm
Derek Johnstone.

Derek Johnstone, Head Chef at Borthwick Castle in Midlothian, is representing the country as the only Scottish chef to have reached the finals of the National Chef of the Year contest.

Johnstone, who was trained at the Glasgow College of Food Technology, joins nine other chefs from across the UK in the running to be awarded the title of National Chef of the Year 2020.

The winner will be revealed at The Restaurant Show at Olympia London on October 1.

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The National Chef of the Year competition is the UK’s most prestigious and respected culinary contest. 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 and Mark Sargeant.

Other finalists this year include Nick Edgar, head chef at Ryebeck Hotel in Cumbria, Ben Boeynaems, head chef at the Zetter Hotel London, and Harry Kirkpatrick, head chef at Trinity Restaurant London.

Johnstone has worked in several four-star hotels throughout Scotland, and joined Borthwick Castle in 2017 following the venue’s two-year restoration.

The 15th-century castle is situated 12 miles outside Edinburgh, and used for private, exclusive events including weddings, family celebrations and corporate events.

In 2008 Johnstone won the inaugural Masterchef: The Professionals, and later went on to work at double Michelin starred restaurant Le Gavroche, with Michel Roux Jr. He also worked with Albert Roux OBE, who was the first chef in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars.

Johnstone secured his place in the finals with a creative response to the competition’s first task, “three courses of summer cuisine”. He presented a menu of smoked haddock royal with Scottish asparagus and morels, followed by grilled oyster and braised cheek of Hardiesmill’s Aberdeen Angus beef with Borlotti beans, chard and kibbled onions.

For dessert, Johnstone served Alunga milk chocolate tart with Bunnahabhain whisky butter caramel, and the first of the season’s Scottish raspberries.

Johnstone said: “I was delighted to have reached the semi-finals in the National Chef of the Year competition last month, so to have a place in the finals of such a prestigious contest is just wonderful. I’m so proud to be representing Scotland on the national stage, and I’m already looking forward to taking on the challenge of the finals in London this autumn.”

Johanne Falconer, General Manager at Borthwick Castle, said: “Derek’s place in the finals for the National Chef of the Year title is a true testament to his dedication, hard work, professional skill and creativity.

“The whole team at Borthwick Castle is absolutely thrilled for him, and we can’t wait to cheer him on in the finals.”

In late 2017, Derek launched an exclusive seasonal Dining Club at Borthwick Castle, developing bespoke, experimental menus paired with fine wines.

Johnstone’s signature style involves modern cooking techniques and contemporary presentation. He has been at the forefront of Borthwick Castle’s drive to cement its reputation as one of the premier culinary locations in the UK.