A 22-YEAR-OLD sous chef at an Eden pub restaurant has cooked his way to the runners-up spot in this year's ‘North West young chef of the year’ competition.

Mai Trising, of The Black Swan, Ravenstonedale, was pipped at the post by Cyril Gabriel of Carden Park Hotel, Chester, in a fiercely contested final at Cheshire College. It saw six talented heat winners, including Oliver Mather, of the Punchbowl Inn, Crosthwaite, and Sion Hughes, of Rogan & Co, go head to head to produce a restaurant quality, three-course meal for two people in a two-and-a-half hour time frame.

With ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’ the key watchwords of the competition, Mai – making his second appearance in the competition – was praised by judges for his menu. It consisted of asparagus poached egg and hollandaise starter, a main course of Borrowdale Herdwick lamb, Curthwaite goats curd and courgette salad, and a dessert of elderflower and yogurt mousse with strawberries, basil and a seasonal gin spritzer.

"I have had a fantastic time progressing through the competition and developing dishes with the help of my head chef Scott Fairweather, who has driven me to continuously question myself and improve," said Mai. "It was great to cook competitively against people of a similar age and skill set."

"I would highly recommend it to other young chefs out there.’’

This year’s judging team included Essential Cuisine business development chef, Jonathan Harvey-Barnes; ex-Le Gavroche head chef, Steven Doherty; Paul Askew of Liverpool’s The Art School; Graham Price, formerly of pub group Brunning & Price, and Master Chef of Great Britain and chairman of the judges, Brian Mellor.

“Yet again the technique on show across the board has been excellent," said Mr Mellor, who has organised the event since it began. "This was one of the hardest competition’s we have ever had to judge, but in the end, Cyril’s consistent quality shone through.

"There was also real passion, pride and endeavour on show – something we’ve come to expect from the competition but should never take for granted."