YOUNG Deeside chef Luke Thomas is to follow his appearance in a national competition with a stint at one of the world’s best restaurants alongside Heston Blumenthal.

Earlier this week the Leader reported how the 16-year-old, a pupil at Connah’s Quay High School, had made the final of the prestigious Welsh International Culinary Championships.

Luke came third in Tuesday’s cook-off, with judges praising the presentation and flavours of his four-course menu which included a trio of Welsh lamb.

Now he is to spend four days working alongside top chef Heston Blumenthal at his Berkshire restaurant, The Fat Duck, in March.

The WICC final took place at Rhos on Sea and was won by Iain Sampson, head chef at Peterstone Court in Brecon.

Luke said he was pleased with his performance against some high quality – and older – competition.

He said: “It went really well. It was a tough competition but I was happy with what I did. All the dishes got out on time and were well presented. The judges were impressed with the flavours.”

Luke, who sits his GCSEs in June, previously studied at Wrexham’s Yale College one day a week, gaining an NVQ level II in food preparation.

He already has experience working with well-known chefs, including week-long shifts in the kitchens of Gary Rhodes and Marcus Wareing.

Last year he beat more than 7,500 entrants to win FutureChef 2009, and also holds gold and silver medals in Welsh lamb cooking at the Welsh Culinary Olympics.

He currently spends one evening a week with head chef Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, where he hopes to work full-time after taking his exams.

Luke said: “I’d like to stay for maybe two years and then do a bit of travelling.
“Eventually I’d like to open a place of my own or be a head chef somewhere.

“It would be nice to come back to work around Chester but first I’ve just got to travel around and see what’s out there.”

The chance to work at The Fat Duck, in Bray, came after he met Blumenthal at a chef’s conference in London.

Luke said: “We were talking and he asked me if I would like to go down and work in the kitchen for a few days. It’s a brilliant opportunity.”

Luke’s WICC menu:

- Lemon sole with brown shrimp beurre noisette, mussel broth and leeks

- Leek and potato veloute, smoked haddock and pancetta crisps

- Trio of Welsh lamb (roast loin, smoked kidney, shepherd's pie) and Jerusalem artichoke puree

- Vanilla pod panna cotta and 'all things cherry' (parfait, poached cherries, oat crumble)