A CHEF from a Basingstoke nursery has made it to the final of a national nursery cooking competition.

Julie Gray, a chef at the Busy Bees nursery in Hanmore Road, Chineham is just one of 16 finalists for the “Scrumptious Starters and Delicious Deserts” competition that is being held across its 238 nurseries in the UK.

The competition, which is in its second year, aims to encourage talented Busy Bee nursery chefs to create a delicious starter or desert that will be included in all the Busy Bees Winter 2014 menus, using fresh and healthy ingredients.

Julie, who lives in Laburnum Way, Winklebury beat over fifty other entrants in the region to make it to the final at The Cooking School, in Halifax on July 17 with her starter of Mackerel and Courgette Pate with Melba Toast.

The finalists will be judged by a panel of experts including the managing director and founder of Busy Bees, Marg Randles and director of charitable food education programme Focus on Food, Jane Sixsmith.

Mother-of-five Julie said: “I decided to make the dish because the children love fish and dips, and it was something different they hadn’t tried before.

“The pate was also a great way of incorporating a vegetable into the children’s diet. The children chose the starter after I had made a variety of ones for the children to taste and vote on.”

She added: “The children voted the Mackerel Pate as their favourite so that’s what we went for. The children really enjoyed it and we knew it was the right one to go for when the children tucked in and finished the lot.”