Leiths School of Food and Wine, famous for training top chefs like Florence Knight and Henry Harris, TV cooks including Gizzi Erskine, Lorraine Pascale and Matt Tebbutt, and legendary writers like Diana Henry, revealed which students gained the ultimate accolades in the 2016 Diploma in Food and Wine. The announcement was made at a celebratory lunch at Tom's Kitchen at Somerset House. Mary Harding won I&P Olive Oils Student of the Year and Mark Norris won Louis Latour Wine Student of the Year.

Leiths Managing Director Camilla Schneideman, said: “Achieving the Diploma is no mean feat. Our students join us because they are determined to make their career in the food world. During the course the students cook every day, and the quality is continually tasted and evaluated by the dedicated teaching team. The most gratifying part of the process is seeing how enthusiastic beginners can turn into skilled professionals in nine months.

“Undertaking work experience, and an introduction to experienced professionals whilst on the course helps to prepare them for the transition from student to culinary professional. Most of the students already have work lined up, starting from next week, and are raring to go. We wish them every success.”

The winning students were joined by established cooks and food writers from the legendary Alastair Little to writers from The Independent, Delicious and Imbibe. Headteacher Claire MacDonald and senior teachers Phil Elliot, Ansobe Smal, and Michael Cropp, who trained at Michelin-starred restaurants such as La Trompette in Chiswick and The Glasshouse in Kew, were also there to praise the students.

After a sunny, champagne reception overlooking the Thames, chef Tom Aikens introduced a menu focusing on seasonal British produce.

Dishes included Dill Cured Salmon with vanilla, pink peppercorn and dill crème fraiche, New Season Asparagus with mache salad, truffle dressing and quail egg, Poached Cornish Brill with pea and mint sauce, garden herbs and mint oil, and Lamb Rump with rosemary polenta, lemon and green olives.

The desert menu included Yorkshire Rhubarb with custard cream, rhubarb sorbet and marshmallow.
The prizes were sponsored by I&P Oils, a gourmet olive oil company based in Tuscany, and Louis Latour, who provided carefully matched wines including Pouilly Vinzelles en Paradis and Mercure Rouge. The Champagne was Gosset's Excellence NV.

The venue is managed by Compass Group, who offer Leiths students the chance to complete work experience in the Michelin starred chef's kitchen at Somerset House each year.