A young North East chef is making a name for herself after winning a regional cooking accolade and securing a job with James Close, the former chef patron of 2 Michelin star Raby Hunt.

Abigail Smith, a commis chef at Rockliffe Hall, near Darlington, recently competed against other chefs to win the coveted title of North East Young Chef of the Year. She was both the youngest entrant and only young woman in the competition.

As a result of her win, Abigail has earned a coveted spot in the semi-final of the national competition Young Chef of the Year, organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs.

The 18-year-old from Darlington caught the eye of many top regional chefs but it was James Close who offered her a job and promotion to chef de partie at his new summer residency TERRA, which opens at Rockliffe Hall on June 13.

Abigail, who is still studying at New College Durham, explained the competition was a nerve-wracking exercise: “It was a little bit intimidating. I was up against older chefs. I was both the youngest and only girl in the competition.

“Everything went fairly smoothly during the morning competition. The only issues were my equipment, which kept breaking on me, but somehow, I got on with it. When the result was announced I did get a bit emotional – relief as much as anything.”

She is delighted to get the new job with James Close and one day hopes to become a head chef and or even run her own restaurant.

Hairy Bikers star Si King, who was one of the judges, said: “I loved being part of a great event. The standard was high, and the brief was locally sourced produce where possible. All the participant chefs and their teams did just that.

“There was some exceptional talent on show at the NECTA competition. But Abigail shone out above the competition, with her confidence, understanding of the task and her expertise in food preparation and cooking. We’ve got it all in the North East and I’m very proud of that. We just got to let the rest of the country know.”

Chris Jewitt, CEO of FADNE, said: “The NECTA annual competition is becoming a key diary date for all young and aspiring chefs across our region. Many past winners of the accolade have gone on to build and develop fantastic careers in the food and hospitality sector and there is little doubt that Abigail will do the same and be a star of the future

“Each year the competition is becoming a bigger affair with senior chefs and restaurateurs keen to encourage and promote the enormous talent in kitchens around our region.”