The challenge is well and truly on to find out who will walk away with the UK’s most prestigious culinary award and be crowned The National Chef of the Year 2011.

Sudha Shankar Saha, Executive Chef at Saffron Restaurant Birmingham is one of the forty chefs, from the crème de la crème of the cooking world, now in the running for the prestigious accolade after being selected to compete in the semi-finals.

Sudha has risen to prominence following his efforts at Saffron Restaurant Birmingham since 2003 and has won several top accolades for himself and the restaurant.

Top culinary training centres in London and Sheffield will play host to the semi-finalists between September 5th and 8th 2011.

Finalists will be invited to gather in London on September 23rd where this year’s mystery basket of ingredients will be revealed.

The grand final will be held at the Restaurant Show at Earls Court 2, London, on October 11th 2011.

“It’s a fantastic honour to be in the running for such a prestigious and well-respected prize,” said Sudha. “I know I’m going to be up against some tremendous talent, but it would be the icing-on-the-cake if I’m able to reach the final.”

Atul Kochhar, Michelin-starred chef and chef patron of Benares Restaurant, and Chris Galvin, chef patron of the Michelin-starred ‘Galvin at Windows’ at the London Hilton on Park Lane, are among the ambassador judges casting watchful eyes over the talent at the event.

“I’m delighted to be a part of this prestigious culinary competition once again,” said Atul. “The opportunity for chefs to showcase their ability is of vital importance to the growth of our industry.”

“The National Chef of the Year really pushes competitors to the limit and helps chefs realise their ambition,” added Chris. “It is a true lesson in excellence, an opportunity to showcase their talent and above all the ultimate award in the world of chefs. You will be privileged enough to earn peer respect, inspire others and make lifelong friends.”

The Prize

David Mulcahy, organiser of the competition and vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: “Last year’s competition was a phenomenal success, and the calibre of entries this year is equally strong. Winning the title is an outstanding achievement and the tremendous prize package up for grabs, worth in excess of £15,000, is a true reflection of that.

“Aside from being awarded the esteemed title of The National Chef Of The Year, the winner will receive a host of top-class prizes including an exclusive study trip to France, courtesy of Lockharts one of the headline sponsors of this year’s event, plus wine tasting in the acclaimed Hermitage region and dinner at a 3-starred Michelin restaurant.”

Other prizes include a money-can’t-buy masterclass with Marco Pierre White, courtesy of headline sponsor Knorr.  Whilst Electrolux is offering The National Chef of the Year 2011 the equipment from the competition theatre that was used to prepare the winning dishes.