The fur and feathers were flying as ten of the UK’s most talented young chefs sweated over their hot stoves in a bid to win the only prize on the menu: the once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Sweden to shoot wild boar. And after a gruelling two hours spent creating the most attractive, flavoursome and well-cooked dishes using Scottish game birds and animals, the overall winner of the 5th Game Chef of the Year cook-off emerged as Lorna McNee, junior sous-chef at the two Michelin starred Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at the Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire.

Ms McNee, 28, is the only woman chef ever to have won the competition, which this year attracted a record 130 entries from all over the UK. Her starter dish of Roast Teal with a salad of beetroot, apple, mushroom and warm vinaigrette and her main of Blue Mountain Hare with smoked game farce and spiced red cabbage puree bagged her the chance to travel to Stockholm and hunt wild boar, courtesy of the competition’s headline sponsor, the venison specialist Highland Game.

She was up against strong challenges from her rival finalists at specialist game food suppliers, Kilmarnock-based Braehead Foods.

Ms McNee's rivals came from Mosimann’s, London; the Garden Rooms, Yorkshire; Artizian, Surrey, Restaurant Associates, London; Prestonfield House Hotel, Edinburgh; Wild Thyme, Perthshire; and Delaware North, Wembley Stadium, Hertfordshire. Libby Clark of Heritage Portfolio, Edinburgh, was the only other woman to make it to the finals in the history of the competition.

Each finalist received £100 to take part and were required to prepare, cook and present two game-based dishes – one furred, one feathered – for judges Paul Gayler, Ian McAndrew and Joe Queen.

The competition marks the end of the current game shooting season, which began on the “glorious” August 12 last year and which has been described as “challenging weather-wise” by the Countryside Alliance, although consumer demand for game is at unprecedented levels as people seek out healthier, leaner meats. Scottish venison, rabbit, mallard, roe deer, hare, partridge, wood pigeon all made an appearance in the competition. Highland Game products are now on sale in Aldi stores in Scotland.

Game birds are notoriously tricky to cook, as their tiny size means the meat can become quite dry. The traditional way to retain moisture in the meat is to wrap the birds in bacon or pork fat – a technique known as barding – but this year, contestants eschewed the tradition and instead pan seared the birds before roasting at high temperatures. They were not allowed to use water baths. “The only way to cook game bird meat is on the bone so that it retains flavour and moisture,” said judge Paul Gayler, formerly of London’s Lanesborough Restaurant at the five-star Hyde Park Hotel. “Unfortunately some of the chefs took the meat off the bone before cooking, but Lorna nailed it in her dishes.”

Craig Stevenson of Braehead Foods said: “This year’s competition has upped the ante in terms of quality, and the training and skills of the young competitors has really shone through. We have to hand it to the chef-patrons for giving them the time to practise and hone their dishes.

“It’s really important to have competitions like this because they enhance the quality of the game cooking in restaurants up and down the country, as well as giving young chefs something to strive for.”

Lorna McNee, who joined Restaurant Andrew Fairlie in 2009, practised her dishes three times before the cook-off on Monday.

“I am staggered to have won and I owe it all to the patience and skill of Andrew and of head chef Stevie McLaughlin, who mentored me.”

Asked about the importance of women in the professional kitchen, she replied: “We’ve always had women in our kitchen here. Girls have a calming influence on the boys. They have more elegance in their cooking than guys, and because they have smaller, more delicate hands they can do better in plating up and presentation of small items like game birds.”