Tom Hamblet, sous chef at the Camellia restaurant at South Lodge hotel in Sussex, has been crowned winner of the BBC's MasterChef: The Professionals 2023.
The 24-year-old beat 31 other chefs to the title in a seven-week competition that saw him impress judges, restaurant critics and industry leaders with his cooking.
The grand final saw Hamblet pitted against Kasae Fraser, head chef at Robun in Bath, and Tommy Thorn, who was head chef at the now-closed Ethicurean in Bristol. The trio were challenged to serve a three-course meal to judges Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace to demonstrate the full range of their skills.
Hamblet's winning menu started with a poached native lobster tail with blanched red and yellow cherry tomatoes, filled with lobster claw meat in a lobster and chilli oil, topped with a lemon verbena gel, courgette balls and a creamy lobster and tomato sauce Américaine.
Wallace told the chef: "This is a great, light dish that really packs a flavour punch."
The main was seared beef fillet on a bed of pan-fried oyster mushrooms, served with braised beef cheek wrapped in brick pastry, topped with a poached oyster, a lovage emulsion, salsify, beef and red wine sauce and a beef and oyster tartare.
Wareing said of the course: "I'm finding it really difficult to find a problem with this. Everything on this plate is cooked beautifully and your attention to detail is exquisite."
To finish, Hamblet served an olive oil sponge filled with an olive oil jam, topped with a set lemon curd, crème fraiche cream, fennel tops and a fennel pollen tuille, served with a fennel seed ice cream.
Galetti said it was "a delightful way to finish the meal" while Wareing said the dish was "like a great piece of music" he wanted to play on repeat.
Reacting to his win, Hamblet said: "I'm lost for words. It's been such a good experience. I've done it! The trophy's here. I'm holding it! I couldn't be happier right now. I'm just going to enjoy the moment.
"Entering MasterChef was something I was very reluctant to do as it's such a risk, but I'm obviously glad I did now! It was such an eye-opening experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about myself and what I'm capable of."
After calling his parents, who are also both chefs at South Lodge, to tell them the news, Hamblet said: "It's really nice to hear how proud they are. It's a big moment for me and them."
Hamblet trained at Westminster Kingsway College in London and has spent the past seven years working in Michelin-starred and AA Rosette-winning restaurants.
He is still cooking at South Lodge, where his dad Lewis is executive chef and mum Haley is a pastry chef, and said he was taking time to work out his future ambitions.
"I want to have a successful career and that means continuing to learn and progress. I'd love to aim for my own Michelin-starred restaurant and maybe do more TV. I'm keen to take on projects that allow me to become a better chef and person so hopefully there are more exciting things coming!"
Lewis Hamblet said he and Haley were both "immensely proud" of their son.
"Watching him on TV and reading the comments online have blown us away," said Lewis. "Seeing how his confidence has grown through the filming process and his delivery has been incredible too.
"He rarely gave us any details after filming because he said he wanted to hold it back for us to see and no spoilers. Very frustrating!
"He can't walk down the high street at the moment as he gets stopped every few seconds."
Exclusive Collection managing director Danny Pecorelli added: "We are so thrilled for Tom. He's a well deserved winner and it's such a lovely story as both his dad Lewis, himself a hotel Catey winner, and his mum Haley work with us and met at Exclusive.
"We have watched Tom grow up and develop into an amazing and talented chef in our kitchens. He continues our successes in cooking competitions being South Lodge's second winner of MasterChef: The Professionals."
Previous MasterChef: The Professionals champions have included Steve Groves, Derek Johnston, Steven Edwards, Claire Lara and last year's winner, Nikita Pathakji.