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 invited to London to cook up his soup for judges tomorrow.

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

In addition, he could fly off to Italy for a week at the Villa Valentina Cookery School, run by celebrated Italian cook and writer, Valentina Harris.

Mr Gilhespy, 41, 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 fla-vours 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 I decided to try my hand."

The winning recipe will be made by the New Covent Garden Food Company as part of its winter range, which will be on sale in supermarkets from mid-September.