SOME of the country’s top young chefs were competing at a national cookery competition at Bournemouth and Poole College this week.

The Teflon™ Diamond Standards Awards are designed to acknowledge and encourage excellence in the catering industry and in the home.

Established in 2012, the awards are open to home cooks and students across the UK, with a chance to win some great prizes.

Last Monday, nine finalists were competing for the national title of Aspiring Student Chef.

One of the judges, Dorset-based celebrity chef Lesley Waters, explained that it is potentially a life changing opportunity to win a three-year Specialised Chef’s Scholarship at Bournemouth and Poole College.

“Every year the standard just gets better and better - it never ceases to surprise me - it gives me some good ideas too,” she laughs.

“The very first competition was held at my cookery school here in Dorset, but since then it has grown to a two day competition attracting hundreds of entries across the UK which is why the standard is so high now.

“But today they are all winners here, so really it’s a celebration for these nine finalists who have all done so well to get through to the finals. It is an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Lesley added: “It is such a good prize too as this is without doubt one of the best courses in the country. I wish there had been something like this available when I first started out.”

Winner of the Aspiring Student Chef of the year was Lily Stock who was presented with a cheque for £500.

“I was extremely nervous about the whole day, but felt very welcomed by everyone who was there. It was great to meet people who share my passion for cooking,” she said.

“The standard of all the dishes was extremely high so it was a privilege to have won this award and to be offered a place at the college.

“I had been practising my dish a lot so I was very comfortable with what I had to do. When I found out I had won, I was overwhelmed with happiness and felt very proud of what I’d achieved.”