Budding Chef has the recipe for success as he reaches final of cooking contest

Budding chef Amine Abdaoui has proved he’s got a recipe for success by reaching the finals of the ‘Hot Chef 2016’ competition, sponsored by McIlhenny tabasco hot pepper sauce.

He was entered into the contest by the Head Chef at the Crown Hotel (where he completed work experience and currently works part-time) as he felt Amine had the potential to do very well.

The Year 11 student impressed the judges in the first round of competition with his gastro-pub serving of seabass on a bed of spinach puree and butternut squash sauce, a dish that saw him become one of 20 semi-finalists out of 10,000 nation-wide contestants!

His achievement is all the more remarkable when you realise that he was the youngest competitor by far, with many of the others currently doing NVQs in cooking.

Left: The winning first round dish of seabass

For the semi – final he was provided with a list of limited ingredients and asked to improvise a dish.

Amine opted to create the morroccan cous-cous tabbouleh and deep fried chicken risotto balls, which had to be presented two different ways, both as a takeaway meal and a gastro pub serving.

He added homemade hummous, which contained tabasco (rules stated all meals had to include this, as per the sponsor), and sour cream.

He said: 'I chose a North African food because it goes with hot sauce – if I chose a European dish, it wouldn’t work as well.'

Below: The dish that got him to the final - deep fried chicken risotto balls on cous cous - pun-tastic!

The delighted cook said: ‘When I walked in, everyone was much older and it seemed like they were doing more technical things but it is more about the taste and not how you make the food. 

I made sure my presentation was up to scratch because they say you eat with your eyes!  It is a hefty amount of what the judges mark on – it was 50% of my overall score.'

Above: A recent dessert made by Amine which was part of a banquet and for which he received praise from a customer, who said it was 'The best dessert they'd had!'

This double whammy, which required excellent presentation, whisked him through to the finals in March, where only 10 hopefuls remain. If he does triumph at the Hotel Olympia that day he wins a holiday to Avery Island, Louisiana where McIlhenny sauce originated.

However he maintains he is looking forward to a greater reward: ‘I don’t even want the holiday! I would also win my own customised chef jacket with my name on it and a certificate saying I won the final. It would such a big achievement and hopefully open doors for me.’

We wish Amine the best of luck in the finals!