Cooking good: Finalists fight for top award

The crème de la crème of city cooks relished the chance to go head to head in the battle for chef of the year at this year’s Milton Keynes Food and Leisure Awards.

With just one month to go until the glitzy awards ceremony at the Woburn Sculpture Gallery, chefs vying for the prestigious prize faced each other in a cook-off on Tuesday.

The finalists fighting it out for the top spot all sizzled at the sight of a mystery box, which was filled with an abundance of ingredients to create a dish of their choice.

But it proved to be too hot in the kitchen for some city chefs who “bottled out” of the cook-off at the very last minute. That left Nigel Norris of Whittlebury Hall, Dariusz Kosvela from MK Social and Jeffrey Payne, Mecure Parkside hoping to be crowned the winner.

Standing between them and victory were the judges – including Citizen reporter Amanda Devlin, mayor Derek Eastman and Phil Fanning – owner of Paris House restaurant .

Speaking at the cook-off, Steven Dryden-Hall, founder of MK Food and Leisure Awards, said tensions were high in the kitchen, as there was only a small ‘margarine’ for error.

“I think the pressure was really on.”

Steven Dryden-Hall, founder of MK Food and Leisure Awards

He said: “There were lots of passionate chefs who really wanted to win for their venue.

“All the dishes were completely different, with ingredients from around the world, which was fantastic.

“The mystery box threw them this year, but there was lots of taste, lots of flavour – and a few mishaps.

“I think the pressure was really on.”

Following the outcome of the mystery box, chefs headed back to the stove to make a main course of their choice. And in the third hour of the challenge, competitors all followed a dessert recipe chosen by MK College.

Steven added: “Four years ago I saw a gap in the market, and we haven’t looked back.

“It’s great for the economy to get people through our restaurant doors by letting everyone know the best places to visit in Milton Keynes.”

> To vote in this year’s Milton Keynes Food and Leisure Awards, visit

The catergories are:

Best Restaurant

Chef of the Year

Best Newcomer

Waiter of the Year

Best Pub

Asian Restaurant

Family Restaurant

Bar of the Year

Hotel of the Year


Gym of the Year

Branded Restaurant

Best Cafe

Local Produce Award

Best Use Of Local Produce

The results will be announced at the ceremony on Sunday, May 10, at Woburn Sculpture Gallery.