A Blackburn-born chef, who has made it to the final of the esteemed-cooking competition the Great British Menu, says his food represents the "light that has come out of the darkness" after his battle with Lyme disease.

Kirk Haworth has made it to the final week of the BBC show after winning the North West heat.

He impressed judges with his plant-based food to score perfect scores for his fish course, main course dessert in the heats.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Kirk said he is proud to represent the north and his hometown.

Kirk, 36, said: “It feels amazing. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to get to the finals.

"I am a very proud northerner so to represent the North West is super cool.”

READ MORE: Blackburn’s Kirk Haworth makes history on Great British Menu

The former Ribblesdale High School pupil will be the first chef to bring a fully plant-based menu through to the finals of the BBC show.

Despite being a plant-based chef, and attracting praise from vegan viewers since the show aired, Kirk said he wants to “create a style of cookery without labels”.

He said: “I am not trying to create a style of cookery with labels [such as vegan]. I am just trying to create delicious food that is made from vegetables.

“My food is not a political movement. When you say vegan to a lot of people it can put them off, the word is quite intense. I want to let my food do the talking without any labels.

“I want the food to excite everyone who eats everything, including but not limited vegans.

“The labels cause a lot of divide.”

Kirk said his style of cooking has not always been plant-based, training for several years in meat and fish cookery.

His plant-based ethos began when he was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2016.

He discovered a diet without meat, gluten, refined sugar or dairy reduced the intensity of his symptoms.

Kirk, who was an apprentice at the one Michelin-star restaurant in Northcote Manor alongside his dad Nigel, said: “I never would have thought I’d be doing this show as a plant-based chef.

"In my early 20s I was cooking everything including meat. I have spent most of my career cooking all food items.

“I don’t think people understand the risks that I have taken to put my reputation on the line, dropping 15 years of training in meat and fish cookery, to just focus on one new way of cooking.”

Kirk said the disease impacted many aspects of his life, his career included.

He said: “At many stages I did not think I could carry on cooking the way I was. I couldn’t cope with the long hours and stress.

“At one point I didn’t think I could work in restaurants anymore.

“I had a wake-up call when I realised that your health is the most important thing in the world. Without it you’re nothing.

“It changed my whole life and everything I do in my life.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Kirk Haworth on the Great British MenuKirk Haworth on the Great British Menu (Image: BBC)

Kirk changed to plant-based cooking around 2017 and said his food represents “the light that has come from the darkness” associated with his health journey.

He said: “When I couldn’t eat rich and creamy things I thought ‘how can I cook these sort of items when I can’t eat them’?

“That is when this path made sense to me as I can’t serve food that I can’t taste properly. That is when I decided I needed to create something out of this situation.

“My food is the light that has come out of all the darkness.”

In the final week of the Great British Menu, Kirk will bring his dishes, inspired by the Olympics and Paralympics, to be judged against other heat winners from around the country.

Kirk, who appeared on the show three years ago but did not win the North West heats that year, said it took months to develop his dishes, which includes a plant-based lasagne.

He said: “As soon as I lost three years ago I wrote down a whole list of things I would do differently if I got the chance to go on the Great British Menu again.

“I practiced my dishes a lot more and cooked under time restraints.

“I even had chefs pretend to be judges so I would be mentally strong enough [on the show].

“I purposely made mistakes in my time trials to practice how I would correct things and pull it back in time.”

Kirk said viewers can expect “a lot of fun” when finals week airs on BBC Two.

He said: “There was so much pressure on regionals week as you don’t want to go home early after investing so much time and money.

“Finals week was really fun and it was great to cook with so many amazing chefs. I met some friends for life.

“I made some changes and made a few things better. I really tried to enjoy it as I put all this pressure on myself the first time around.

“I am not trying to be any other chef than myself, which is why I became so emotional when I did well in the heats.

“It’s emotional for me. I am not just cooking. A lot of people have invisible illnesses and that is in my heart when I am cooking. I feel like I am carrying a lot of people’s suffering with me through this journey.”