A young culinary wizard who reached the quarter finals of TV’s Masterchef: The Professionals will showcase his skills at this year’s Llangollen Food Festival.

Neil Robertson honed his cooking expertise in the kitchens of an impressive range of top hotels in the UK and overseas before becoming sous chef at The Wild Pheasant Hotel and Spa in Llangollen last June.

He is among an array of food and drink producers and experts from across North Wales and beyond who will be appearing at the one-day Llangollen festival on Saturday October 15 when he will present a mouth-watering one-pot dish using the best of fresh Welsh ingredients.

Neil, 23, is originally from Johannesburg in South Africa but came with his family to live in Newport, South Wales at the age of 14.

At 16 he became an apprentice chef at Cardiff’s Marriott Hotel. After completing his training there Neil decided to specialise in fine dining and his first role in that arena was at the luxurious Llangoed Hotel in Brecon where he was chef de partie.

His next professional move took him across the world to Melbourne, Australia where he built on his experience by working in the kitchen of a hotel boasting three Michelin stars.

Returning to the UK after six months Down Under he became junior sous chef at the famous Albrighton Hall Hotel and Spa in Shrewsbury and then it was on to Nottingham to take on his first leading chef position at the city’s Lace Market Hotel.

This summer he joined the busy team at The Wild Pheasant.

Back in 2019 he vividly recalls reaching the quarter finals of Masterchef: The Professionals and being tasked with making the perfect Omelette Arnold Bennett  early in the contest.

“To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it before but I quickly found out it’s based on smoked haddock with a mornay sauce. That was quite nerve-racking but I got through to the quarter finals with a dish comprising pigeon with wild mushrooms, truffles and blackberry jus, which the judges loved.”

Neil says he is enjoying his time at The Wild Pheasant, explaining: “It’s a great place to work in a lovely location and we get such a fantastic range of customers as it’s a top-class hotel with a spa.

“Although I haven’t been to the Llangollen Food Festival before I’ve heard lots about it as it’s known across the UK as a major event in the foodie calendar.

“North Wales has some of the best produce in the world and Llangollen has it all in terms of its location and accessibility.

“At the festival I’ll be presenting a special dish prepared in a single pan featuring lovely fresh Welsh produce including Conwy mussels, a Penderyn whisky cream sauce, smoked pancetta served with lava bread butter on crispy sourdough bread.”

This year’s Food Festival will be coming from a variety of venues in the centre of Llangollen and is open to the public from 10am-5pm.

An array of around 40 stand-holders are waiting to display their products – ranging from the best in home-grown Welsh artisan delicacies to Bolivian street food – at the Town Hall, in the main entrance to Llangollen Steam Railway and at Gales Wine Bar.

There will also be some exciting hands-on workshops on offer, including local experts giving the kids – and adults too – the chance to test their skills at decorating cupcakes or creating a clay masterpiece on a real potter’s wheel.

Chef Neil will be masterminding the cupcake demonstration at the Town Hall and says he is looking forward to having plenty of fun with it.

Gales Wine Bar will be playing host to a mini beer festival in its garden area and throughout the day there will be dishes on show from top local chefs.

After the main daytime event, people are invited back to the Town Hall from 6pm to challenge their senses with a special one-off tasting event from the experts of Wales’ own Penderyn Whisky for which there will be a charge of £15 a head.

During the day there will be a selection of live outdoor entertainment in Llangollen’s centrepiece Centenary Square, including selections from Corwen ladies’ choir and local bands.