AN AWARD-WINNING chef working at a luxury country hotel in Worcestershire has reached the finals of a prestigious national culinary competition.

Mark Stinchcombe, who was crowned the BBC MasterChef: The Professionals champion in 2015, has now reached the finals of the British Culinary Federation (BCF) Chef of the Year 2018 contest.

The Alcester-based organisation represents chefs from across Britain and abroad. Its membership spans chefs working in hotels, restaurants, contract catering, colleges and the armed services and the association is committed to training, quality and culinary competitions while promoting culinary skills throughout the industry.

It stages an annual Chef of the Year contest and this year the 10 finalists come from London, Cambridge, Birmingham, Devon, the Cotswolds, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Warwickshire.

The competition final takes place on Monday April 23 (also National Asparagus Day when the Vale of Evesham celebrates the delicious vegetable) at University College Birmingham and contestants will vie for a place in England’s National Culinary Team, which is competing at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg later this year.

Mark works as head chef at Eckington Manor in the Vale of Evesham after gaining experience working in the kitchen of the two-star Michelin restaurant Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham as well as a host of other fine hotels and restaurants.

He said: “I’m very humbled to be named as a finalist in this acclaimed competition. The British Culinary Federation highlight the very best of the culinary arts, so to have my named among the finalists is quite an honour.

“It’s been an incredible journey and I know I’m going to be coming up against some the best chefs this country has to offer, so whatever happens at the finals, I know I can hold my head high.”

Having also won the titles of Young National Chef of the Year and Master of Culinary Arts, Mark now uses his culinary excellence to create unique dishes with produce from Eckington Manor’s award-winning farm, orchard, vegetable and herb gardens.

Eckington Manor pays particular attention to producing fully traceable food containing natural flavours.

Apart from producing unique fine dining dishes for the restaurant, Mark also works in the hotel’s cookery school where he passes on his culinary skills to aspiring chefs and keen amateurs.

He added: "We at Eckington Manor are very passionate about food and the farm allows me to showcase dishes that I know are made with the freshest ingredients. We're obviously very proud to demonstrate a farm to fork journey in all of our dishes, which enhances the special experience of dining with us."

Another finalist is head chef of The Kings Hotel in Chipping Campden Greg Newman. He has taken part in this competition before reaching the semi-finals and he also reached the semi-finals of the National Chef of the Year contest as well as becoming a finalist in the South West Chef of the year too.

He says he is really excited about the finals of the BCF event. “There are some really good chefs in the final, it’s good to be involved with the guys. I'm looking forward to doing my food but also seeing what others are doing and see how they interpret the brief.”