YOUNG culinary stars of the future turned up the heat as they went head-to-head in the sizzling final of a Darlington cookery competition.
The seven budding chefs, aged between 14 and 16, from schools across the town battled it out in the kitchens of Darlington College to be crowned Darlington Young Chef of the Year 2012.
After a cook-off, 14-year-old Hayley Bowes, from Longfield Academy of Sport, scooped the title with her meal of mushroom polenta grill, hoisin and sesame-glazed grilled duck and an individual summer berry fruit pavlova.
The budding chef - who will now be entered into the next round of the national Rotary Young Chef of the Year competition – hopes to one day become a top chef or dietician.
“It feels really surreal and it’s not sunk in yet,” she said. “I absolutely love cooking and am working towards my AS in food technology at school.”
Judge and catering tutor at Darlington College, Donna Joyce, said Miss Bowes’ food was restaurant quality and cooked to perfection.
She said: “All the entries were fantastic and there were seven winners in the end.
“But Hayley’s technical skills were so professional and hers was a very well balanced menu. To think she is only 14 and cooking to this standard is amazing.”
Head chef at Rockliffe Hall, Kenny Atkinson, who was also on the judging panel said: “I was really impressed and blown away by them all.
“Some chefs I know would not have been able to cope with this pressure, so they should all be really proud of themselves.”
All seven finalists were presented with certificates and will be invited back to the college for a celebratory meal cooked by the tutors.
The competition, which was organised by Darlington Rotary Club and Darlington College, with support from The Northern Echo, is set to become a yearly contest with schools across Darlington taking part.