AN APPRENTICE who swapped her waitress uniform for chef whites is preparing for her biggest catering challenge to date at one of the region’s most prestigious social events.

Chelsea Layfield, 20, will help prepare more than 900 delicious seafood dishes at the Oyster Festival at Hardwick Hall Hotel in Sedgefield, County Durham, on Friday, September 19.

After waitressing in the hotel’s restaurant, the Rib Room Steakhouse and Grill, Miss Layfield, from Ferryhill, discovered a passion for food and took a step towards furthering her career in the kitchen:

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“I began working in the kitchen last year and I’m currently working towards my level two NVQ in catering, which I should be finished by October,” she said.

“It’s great to be able to do something which I really enjoy and the hotel has been very supportive of my career.

“The Oyster Festival is one of the highlights of the North-East social calendar so it’s a great experience for me to be working on such a high-profile event alongside the head chef”

John Adamson, managing director of Ramside Estates, which owns Hardwick Hall Hotel, said: “Chelsea has proved to be a great asset to the kitchen staff and I’m confident that she’ll impress us all in September when she’s presented with her biggest food challenge to date.”

This year’s Oyster Festival features performances by American soul legend Alexander O’Neal and comedian Terry Alderton.

Tickets cost £140 plus VAT per person. For more information or to book contact 01740 620253 or email