Steven Edwards, head chef at Camellia restaurant at South Lodge hotel in West Sussex, has been crowned winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2013.
In a hotly contested final week he narrowly beat former Acorn Award winner Adam Handling, head chef at the Caxton Grill in the St Ermin's hotel in London, and Scott Davies, head chef at the Adamson restaurant in St Andrews.
He is the seventh professional chef to hold the title, joining the ranks of previous winners Derek Johnstone, Steve Groves, Claire Lara, Ash Mair and last year's joint winners Keri Moss and Anton Piotrowski.
Having excelled in a final cook off judged by Michel Roux Jr, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace, Edwards said: "It feels so surreal; I don't know what to say, apart from thank you!
"I'm exceptionally happy, I can't believe it, this is what dreams are made of isn't it! I don't know how to describe how I'm feeling, it means so much. These kinds of things don't seem to happen to me, it just feels unbelievable."
Roux said that Edwards had cooked exceptionally throughout the competition.
"His food is lovely," he added. "He makes food that is great to eat, expertly cooked, presented with certain elegance, clean lines…and it works. Fault free."
Galetti praised Edwards winning menu, which included Anjou pigeon breast with roasted baby beetroot, caramelised feta dice, apple compote, watercress and a beetroot vinaigrette; pan-fried stone bass on a bed of tomato and parmesan orzo, with pureed poached and blackened Kohlrabi and a lime foam; and honey cake topped with honeycomb, with poached peaches, peach compote, roast peach puree, yoghurt Espuma, a pistachio crumb and thyme syrup.
She said: "Steven showed he deserves to be here, he's cooked faultlessly. It was simplicity done to perfection."
Edwards added that the toughest test had been cooking for the best chefs in the country at the Chefs Table.
"It was a very difficult challenge but also the pressure of cooking for your idols was immense," he said.
"My highlight of the series was going to Italy and cooking with Massimo Bottura. He is not only one of the best chefs in the world but also the most enthusiastic and inspirational chef I have worked with.
"You kind of get a buzz from it. I don't know how I'm going to keep that buzz going after the show. That's my biggest worry, because you get an adrenaline rush, it's addictive!"