THE owner and head chef of an acclaimed north Lancashire hotel have proved they are the perfect match after reaching the final of a major culinary competition.

Andrew Wildsmith, who owns Hipping Hall, and his head chef Brent Hulena, have beaten off stiff competition from the finest restaurants in the North West, central England and North Wales to win the regional finals of the prestigious Champagne Jacquart Rising Stars Trophy.

The national food and wine matching competition will now see the pair head to Westminster Hall in London on April 22 to pitch their palates against four other contenders who will be competing for the title of best young chef and sommelier team in the country.

“It is a really fascinating competition and we’re very excited to be going to the finals,” said Mr Wildsmith, who opened Hipping Hall, on the edge of Kirkby Lonsdale, in 2005.

The contest, which is run in conjunction with Europe’s leading drinks trade publication drinks business, aims to highlight the importance of a harmonious relationship between a chef and sommelier in establishments wanting to provide an unrivalled dining experience.

At the regional finals in Manchester, Mr Hulena was tasked with producing a black pudding starter and fish-based main course in just one hour.

The 26-year-old, who is originally from New Zealand, wowed judges with an innovative creation of croquette of black and white pudding with roasted langoustine, celeriac remoulade and langoustine bisque.

This was then followed by a designer dish of roast fillet of halibut, potato espuma, wild mushrooms, ventreche bacon and chicken glaze.

Mr Wildsmith, 33, was then asked to sniff, sip and swirl 27 unidentified wines before choosing the best to accompany each dish He was also quizzed by a panel of leading wine experts about his wine list At the final, Mr Hulena will be asked to cook three courses from a list of core ingredients in less than two hours, while Mr Wildsmith will be faced with a fresh table of wines.