Six talented young chefs from across the county fought it out in the hotly contended Sussex Young Chef of the Year ‘cook off’, sponsored by Blue Spark Organisation, as part of the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2010/11.

The six shortlisted chefs were selected by public vote and faced enormous pressure this year having to produce a full three-course menu, based on local and seasonal ingredients, as opposed to the one course in previous years.

The cook off was hosted by City College Brighton & Hove and the young chefs faced a nail biting wait before having to perform against the clock, producing each dish under the watchful eyes of the expert judging panel chaired by Clive Beddall OBE, Chairman of the Sussex Food & Drink Awards.

After much deliberation from the judging panel, organisers are delighted to announce the top three going through to the final are two young chefs from South Lodge Hotel in Horsham, 24-year-old Steven Edwards, Sous Chef for the main hotel and 23-year-old Hanna Payne from The Pass Restaurant; and joining them is the youngest candidate this year, 20-year-old Simon Duncan from Sam’s of Brighton.

Dhrutee Davé, Director of Haywards Heath based food recruitment agency, Blue Spark Organisation, said: “It has been a fantastic experience to be sponsors of this very popular category this year. The six candidates truly proved themselves in a very intense cook off and all were worthy of a place in the final – it was an extremely difficult decision for the judges to choose the top three as all the dishes were outstanding, but Simon, Hanna and Steven were exceptional and their dishes were truly delicious.”

Said Clive Beddall OBE, Chairman of the Judges: “This year the quality was the best we have ever had – the young chefs were calm and extremely professional and the food was unbelievably good. I’m very excited about the future of food in Sussex with these young chefs making their mark here. We want the three who didn’t make it through this year to please come back again next year as they were excellent and picking the three finalists was a very hard decision.”

Runners up, Will Stanyer from Hotel Du Vin, Brighton; Daniel Whittle from Temptation café, Brighton and Bradley Jordan from Restaurant Tristan, Horsham fought a close battle against the other three finalists. Steven, Simon and Hanna now face another two months of waiting to see who the overall winner is which will be announced at the Sussex Food & Drink Awards dinner, to be held at the East Sussex Golf Resort & Spa on 27th January 2011 and hosted by Danny Pike from BBC Sussex.

Organisers have already opened sales for tickets to attend the awards dinner, now dubbed the ‘Sussex foodie event of the year’. This black tie event promises to be the best yet, celebrating the awards’ 5th birthday and includes a Sussex bubbly and ale reception, sponsored by Harveys; a stunning seven-course banquet dinner using the very best Sussex produce, created by the talented Andy Wiles, East Sussex National’s head chef; lots of entertainment; and a lively Oscars-style awards presentation.

Visit the website www.sussexfoodawards.biz to find out how to buy tickets for this fabulous event or call Natural PR on 01273 857242 for more information.