A LEADING Scottish chef has reached the finals of the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition.

Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle in Midlothian, is representing the country as the only Scottish chef to have reached the finals of the prestigious National Chef of the Year contest.

Derek, who joined Borthwick Castle in 2017 following the venue’s two-year restoration, joins nine other chefs from across the UK in the running to be awarded the title of National Chef of the Year 2020.

The winner of the National Chef of the Year 2020 competition will be unveiled at The Restaurant Show at Olympia London on October 1.

The National Chef of the Year competition is the UK’s most prestigious and respected culinary contest. Launched in 1972 and judged by a panel of more than 40 respected chefs from across the industry, previous winners include Gordon Ramsay, Alyn Williams and Mark Sargeant.

Securing his place in the finals with a creative interpretation of the competition’s first task, three courses of summer cuisine, Derek presented a menu of smoked haddock royal with Scottish asparagus and morels, followed by grilled oyster and braised cheek of Hardiesmill’s Aberdeen Angus beef with Borlotti beans, chard and kibbled onions.

Then, for dessert, he served Alunga milk chocolate tart with Bunnahabhain whisky butter caramel and the first of the season’s Scottish raspberries.

Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle, said: “I was delighted to have reached the semi-finals in the National Chef of the Year competition last month, so to have a place in the finals of such a prestigious contest is just wonderful.

“I’m so proud to be representing Scotland on the national stage, and I’m already looking forward to taking on the challenge of the finals in London this autumn.”

Johanne Falconer, general manager at Borthwick Castle, said: “Derek’s place in the finals for the National Chef of the Year title is a true testament to his dedication, hard work, professional skill and creativity.

“The whole team at Borthwick Castle is absolutely thrilled for him, and we can’t wait to cheer him on in the finals in October.”

Derek launched his career at a young age, winning the inaugural series of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2008 before going on to hone his skills working alongside Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche and Albert Roux at Chez Roux.

In late 2017, Derek launched an exclusive seasonal Dining Club at Borthwick Castle, developing bespoke, experimental menus paired with fine wines in a venue which is not normally accessible to the public.

Incorporating modern cooking techniques with contemporary presentation, Derek’s culinary creations are driving forward Borthwick Castle’s reputation as Scotland’s leading private hire venue for food connoisseurs.

For more information about Borthwick Castle and its history, please visit www.borthwickcastle.com, and to find out more about the National Chef of the Year competition, please visit www.nationalchefoftheyear.co.uk.