Masterchef victor helping little chef cook up a competition storm

Emma Sturrock has been practising her dishes in Derek Johnstone's kitchen
Emma Sturrock has been practising her dishes in Derek Johnstone's kitchen
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NOT many budding cooks are fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a Masterchef.

But 16-year-old Emma Sturrock has been honing her culinary skills with the help of former BBC Masterchef champion Derek Johnstone, as she prepares to compete in the national final of the Rotary Young Chef competition.

Derek, who was crowned Masterchef in 2008, is head chef at Greywalls Hotel and Chez Roux Restaurant in East Lothian.

After being impressed by her skills in one of the heats he has been helping Emma prepare for the grand final.

The fifth-year pupil at Preston Lodge High School won the regional final of the competition, which covered Scotland and northern England, at the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine in Kirkliston on Sunday.

Emma, of Port Seton, East Lothian, was chosen from eight competitors from the three Scottish and one northern England Rotary districts, having fought through the school, area and district rounds.

She impressed judges with a mouth-watering, three-course meal consisting of creamy parsnip and apple soup with chestnuts, parsnip crisps and parmesan twists, followed by sea bass en papillote with carrots and leeks on crushed potatoes and watercress puree, and a dessert of tarte au citron with a raspberry coulis to finish.

As well as the actual taste of the food, competitors were marked on nutritional content, cost, timing, hygiene and cookery techniques.

Emma said: “I like cooking and I decided to give the competition a try. I thought of doing fish because I’m from Port Seton and it’s a fishing area, so I thought it would be good.

“I never actually thought I would win because there was such high standards, so I was really surprised and happy. My nana was crying.”

She added: “Derek Johnstone was judging when I first got picked to be the Rotary Club’s representative in the competition. After that, he asked if I wanted to be mentored by him and I’ve gone along to his restaurant to practise a few times.

“I have made my soup and sea bass there and worked on presentation. It’s been really good.”

Emma said she often cooked dinner for parents Pamela and Colin, and sister Kirsty, 11.

“When I was really young I would bake little cakes with my nana – that’s how it started off – and then I moved on to cooking teas,” she said.

Emma will compete in the national final at the WI Cookery School at Denman College, Oxfordshire, on April 21, where she will battle it out against the winners of the eight other UK and Ireland regions for the title.

She plans to prepare the same three-course meal at the national final of the competition, which is organised by Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland.

She said: “I’m more nervous than ever. There will be a lot of hard competition, but I will try my best.”