A young chef is making a name for herself after winning a regional cooking accolade and securing a top job with James Close, the former chef-patron of double Michelin-starred Raby Hunt.

Abigail Smith, a commis chef at Rockliffe Hall, near Darlington, competed against other chefs to win the coveted title of North East Young Chef of the Year.

She was the youngest entrant and the only young woman in the competition.

It might have been her first serious competition, but cooking is in her family DNA with both her uncle and grandfather as former chefs.

Abigail SmithAbigail Smith (Image: HANDOUT)

This top accolade was secured at the North East Culinary and Trade Awards (NECTA) held at Crowne Plaza Newcastle, organised by Food and Drink North East (FADNE), a regional network supporting and promoting the sector across the region.

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's food offering on June 13.

Si King was one of the judgesSi King was one of the judges (Image: HANDOUT)

Abigail, who is still studying at New College Durham, said: “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.

From left_Neil Le Flohic, Pink Lane Bakery; Abigail Smith; and Ken ThompsonFrom left_Neil Le Flohic, Pink Lane Bakery; Abigail Smith; and Ken Thompson (Image: HANDOUT)

"The only issue was 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, added: “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 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.”