A NORTH-EAST engineer has used his inventive skills to win a place in the finals of a national competition - for soup making.

Phil Gilhespy, of Medomsley, Consett, is one of four finalists who have been invited to London to cook-up his signature soup for the judge's final verdict on Friday.

If his chicken, chicory and chives soup manages to win the judges over, he could see his creation on supermarket shelves across the country, as part of the New Covent Garden Food Company's range.

He could also be flying off to Italy for a week at the Villa Valentina Cookery School run by celebrated Italian cook and writer, Valentina Harris.

Phil, 41, who was also a finalist in the Raymond Blanc cook-off final this year said: "I am absolutely thrilled at being chosen as one of four finalists.

"I love experimenting with different combinations of ingredients to create new flavours and ideas.

"I started cooking out of necessity when I lived alone and it developed into a hobby. I had only made soup about two or three times before and when I saw the competition decided to try my hand.

"I wanted to create something tasty and original which would be appropriate for New Covent Garden Food Company's existing range of soups."

The winning soup recipe will be made by the company and sold as part of their new range, launched in mid-September.