ACCRINGTON chef Thomas Fallows has been awarded the title of Coeliac UK’s Gluten-free Chef of the Year by a panel of judges following an intense cook-off by six finalists.

His prize is a week’s work experience with two Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie at the world-renowned Gleneagles Thomas, 24, who is studying professional cookery at Accrington and Rossendale College is also Assistant Chef at Hindelini’s Gourmet Café in Ribblesdale Park.

The competition required a three course bistro-style gluten-free meal to be designed and recreated during the live final.

Thomas cooked a northern Italian inspired meal comprising salt cod fritters in an autumn salad with balsamic syrup; wild Lancashire rabbit ballotine stuffed with porcini mushrooms, shallot and sage, wrapped in pancetta, with polenta, parmesan and chive triangles, served on a bed of cavolo nero, with a sangiovese red wine and porcini jus, garnished with parsnip crisps and celery leaf micro herb and for dessert pumpkin and squash sweet pastry tart topped with sage meringue and served with hazelnut grappa syrup.

Says Thomas: “The sage meringue was an idea I got from Michelin-star chef Lisa Allen from Northcote Manor who came into college to talk to us.

“I’m really excited and a bit nervous about going to work at Gleneagles, but it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

The competition was run by Coeliac UK – the national charity for people with coeliac disease – with the Institute of Hospitality and the Craft Guild of Chefs, with the cook off event being held at the Unilever Food Solutions Culinary Business Development Centre in Leatherhead.

The event aims to raise awareness and highlight the need for increased provision of gluten-free menu options for the 1 in 100 people in the UK who have coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten, for which the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life.

The panel of judges included Michelin starred chef Adam Gray from London restaurant Skylon, chef Daniel Ayton of 51 Buckingham Gate and Saint James Court Hotel and Malcolm Emery, Executive Chef for Sodexo Prestige.

Adam said: “To cook in a live final isn’t an easy feat so I want to congratulate all of the finalists – the judges certainly enjoyed tasting some exceptional dishes. Hundreds of thousands of people are looking for gluten-free options and the demand for skilled chefs is on the increase, this competition showcases some excellent talent and raises the awareness of the need to cater for the gluten-free diet.” Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK, said: “This competition and the industry support we gain through it highlights the need for improved gluten-free catering which is of benefit to both the customer with coeliac disease and the business that is securing their custom by catering for their diet.”

“One in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease and this represents a potential £100 million market amongst those diagnosed with the condition and the friends and family they eat out with.

“Some relatively simple changes can make all the difference and we have seen a number of leading high street catering establishments who have been working with us recently enter this market and make a success at it.

“In addition there are numerous people in schools, hospitals, prisons and care homes who have no choice of where they can eat so it is essential that those in such establishments also have access to gluten-free food.”