Word of mouth: After caviare, it is back to Beds for the scholarship chef

Even if he doesn't leave Bedfordshire, the odds must now be on Patrick Thompson going far. This weekend, the 23-year-old chef returns to his stove at the Falcon in Bletsoe, after three months' training at Alain Senderens' Paris restaurant, Lucas Carton. This, plus pounds 1,500 cash, travel, accommodation and a weekly allowance was the prize for winning the 15th Roux Diners Club Scholarship.

Previous winners of this prestigious competition for young chefs include Martin Hadden, who is now head chef at The Halcyon in London, Jonathan Harrison, head chef at Birmingham's Swallow Hotel and Trevor Blythe, who opened his own restaurant, Pelham Street, in London, this year to an enthusiastic reception. Mercy Fenton, now head chef at the Stephen Bull Restaurant, is still the only woman to win, and the organisers would dearly like more women entrants.

Patrick Thompson has always worked in Bedfordshire. But he took the pressure of the Parisian kitchen, and working with 26 other dedicated chefs, in his stride. Just before he left to come back to England he broke off from making 20 kilos of puff pastry in the Paris basement to describe what he has seen. "They can afford to buy the best of everything: lobsters, truffles, caviare, foie gras," he said. "It's been such an eye-opener." Now he's back on home territory, customers can expect to see changes at The Falcon. "I've seen so much and learned so many new techniques. But I can't give too many recipes away or Mr Senderens won't be happy," he said before admitting he'd like to put more scallops on the menu.

Even at college it was clear he would go further than most of his contemporaries. "It's my ambition to have my own restaurant by the time I'm 28, then see about Michelin stars after that; a Michelin star has always been my aim." Caroline Stacey

Entry forms for the 1999 scholarship are available by calling 0181-940 4144

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