A TALENTED young cook will represent Colchester at the final of a national cooking competition after beating hundreds of hopefuls.

Alicia Russell, ten, who goes to Elmstead Primary School, is competing in the grand final of Young Pea Chef of the Year, which requires budding chefs between four and 16 to produce a delicious recipe using frozen peas.

She booked her place in the cook-off after wowing a panel of expert judges with a buttery puff pastry parcel oozing with gloriously green peas.

Alicia, who defied the efforts of more than 200 other aspiring chefs to reach the final, is now one of just five schoolchildren set to battle it out with the hope of triumphing in the primary school category.

She said: “I am very excited and happy to reach the finals of the competition.

“I have always loved cooking and it is one of my favourite things to do.

“I love creating dishes from scratch and experimenting without using a recipe as I find it fun and enjoy discovering new flavours.”

Alicia became interested in cooking after hours in the kitchen with her mum. She also became frustrated with a lack of accommodating dishes for sufferers of coeliac disease – a digestive condition she’s had since she was 21 months old.

During family dinner dates at restaurants, Alicia would often be faced with food she couldn’t eat so would attempt to make it at home with a revised and gluten-free recipe.

She said: “It can sometimes be a bit harder to find gluten-free food when I go out or on holiday, but the variety of food has improved a lot.

“I don’t mind being gluten free as I can’t remember what food containing gluten tastes like, but I can remember being very ill.

“I like showing people that gluten-free foods are tasty and my sticky toffee pudding is now my favourite dessert.

“My dream is to one day open my own gluten-free restaurant.”

The next stage of Young Pea Chef of the Year requires the public to vote for their favourite recipes.

The winners of each of the competition’s categories will win a £500 donation from the Ocado Foundation towards Grown Your Own school projects and a personalised hamper.

To vote for Alicia, or your favourite, recipe visit facebook.com/YesPeas.