Judges for Scotland's ultimate culinary scholarship said they had 'no choice' but to announce two worthy recipients following a highly competitive final skills test this week.

The Andrew Fairlie Scholarship is awarded annually in partnership with the Hospitality Industry Trust (HIT) and carries on the late chef's commitment to nurturing emerging talent in Scotland.

An all-star judging panel of industry-leading chefs this year included Stephen McLaughlin, Sat Bains, Lorna McNee and Gary Maclean, who are all said to have known Fairlie well.

The Herald: Pictured: The all-star panel and this year's winnersPictured: The all-star panel and this year's winners (Image: Supplied)

The final skills test was carried out on Wednesday at Perth College UHI with the surprise announcement of two winners later taking place at a ceremony in the Gleneagles Hotel.

Darren Seggie, 35, lecturer of culinary arts at City of Glasgow College and Rachel Bremner, 34, commis pastry chef at The Balmoral were the talented chefs who most impressed the expert industry judges. 

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Stephen McLaughlin, lead judge and head chef at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie said: "We had no choice but to award two deserving winners.

"They not only submitted immaculate application packs but followed this through and showcased themselves clearly as the best on the day with clean, precise and creative cookery."

The Herald: Pictured: Rachel Bremner and Darren Seggie Pictured: Rachel Bremner and Darren Seggie (Image: newsquest)

Alongside three other finalists, the winning duo was challenged to create a dish using potato as its star ingredient while incorporating Scottish dairy.

Mr Seggie made the bold choice to present a potato-based dessert of butter gold potato pudding and espuma, sourdough crumble and ice cream and caramel sauce.

Ms Bremner instead chose the savoury route with a potato and egg yolk ravioli, crispy potato skins and potato espuma that 'blew the judges away'.

Mr McLaughlin said: "Our five finalists have competed fiercely and fairly today and they have all given it everything to win this year’s Andrew Fairlie Scholarship.

"Everyone competed with great character and commitment and showed real respect for one another this afternoon."

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Over the next two years, the winners will embark on a two-day educational trip to France with Grande Cuisine as well as gaining hands-on experience at the two-Michelin star Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles and the three-star Core by Clare Smyth in London.

They will also receive bespoke chef’s jackets from Goodfellows.

David Cochrane, HIT Scotland chief executive, said: “It was a true delight to see our group of finalists demonstrate a passion for cooking that Andrew Fairlie would be proud of.

"A huge congratulations goes to Darren and Rachel, who have demonstrated exceptional skill, creativity, and dedication to their craft.

"They have bright culinary futures ahead."

The Herald: Pictured: Ms Bremner and Mr Seggie will gain hands-on experience at two of the UK's finest restaurantsPictured: Ms Bremner and Mr Seggie will gain hands-on experience at two of the UK's finest restaurants (Image: Supplied)

Also making the final five this year were Daniel Robb, 27, Chef de Partie at Gleneagles, Spud Henderson, 34, Sous Chef at Craig Millar @ 16 West End and Rita Varga, 31, Chef de Partie and kitchen departmental trainer at Voco Grand Central Hotel.

Ype van der Schaaf, sector manager of hospitality and food studies at Perth College UHI said: “Offering our kitchens and facilities to support HIT Scotland and being part of the Andrew Fairlie Scholarship is very important to us, as he was our well-respected alumnus.  

“Hosting for the third time this year, we have really enjoyed watching the finalists create their fantastic dishes, they’re at the top of their game and their efforts demonstrate to our students the very top of industry standards."