As the judges made their decisions on whose dish would win gold at NZ Chefs Hawke's Bay Salon last weekend Abbie Lythgoe waited, holding her mother's hand.
When they announced that I was the winner, Mum and I looked at each other in disbelief," 16-year-old Abbie said. "It was really cool."
The Havelock North High School Year 12 student says she was really excited about winning the competition and was looking forward to competing in the National Secondary Schools Culinary Competition Grand Final in Auckland on September 8.
The regional final was held at the NZ Chefs Hawke's Bay Salon at Eastern Institute of Technology in front of not only the judges but members of the public.
Abbie was up against Alex Mortimer from Havelock North High School, Braedon Foster from St John's College and Sophie Gouder from Napier Girls' High School.
Abbie says she was really nervous before the cook. "I was at a station near where the public were watching so I felt as if there were a lot of eyes on me," she said.
"But once I started cooking I was fine."
The young cooks had 60 minutes to create and plate two identical portions of entree showcasing broccoli. Abbie created Broccoli Gnocchi with broccoli cream and bacon sauce, lemon roasted broccoli florets, pine nuts, parmesan and charred broccoli leaf.
Abbie says food and cooking have always been a big part of her life.
"I have spent lots of time in the kitchen with mum and my grandparents and took food and nutrition classes at school. In fact it was one of my teachers who approached me and suggested I enter the competition."
Abbie likes how food connects people all around the world.
"It brings people together."
Her favourite dishes to cook are desserts but she also enjoys cooking and eating Mexican and Asian street food.
Abbie's end goal is to work in the science behind food.