CULINARY prodigy Beth Collings had never been to India before, let alone cooked there.

But by the end of the Young Chef Olympiad in Kolkata the 18-year-old from Brighton had won bronze.

So what was it like to be named one of the best young cooks in the world?

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Beth said.

“It was a bit overwhelming and difficult as well.

“I was really surprised I’d make it into the final considering I was competing against people from 60 different countries.

“It was really intense, you had all the judges walking around trying stuff.

“But also because everyone was so focused you didn’t pay attention to them.”

Given a list of ingredients and told to whip up a starter and a main in two hours, Beth had to think fast.

She knocked judges off their feet with pan-fried cauliflower in cinnamon butter, baba ganoush, roasted beetroot, candied pecans, citrus-dressed fennel and a beetroot dressing.

Then her main of pan-fried king prawns, prawn bisque, coconut and coriander rice, pak choi, and lime segments sealed her place in the top three.

“It went really quickly, you had the clock ticking down but you’d look up and it had gone from two hours to 20 minutes,” Beth said.

“We were planning since November but I was practising cooking for three or four weeks.”

With the intense competition in full swing when she arrived in Delhi in January, there was no time for sightseeing.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t really looked into India,” Beth said.

“It was really interesting, there were so many different cultures it was hard to see everything.

“We were up really early every day, the organisers took us out to eat a lot.

“I had so much food I wouldn’t normally eat, there were these amazing fried dough sweets which I’d never had before.”

But it was meeting young chefs from around the world which really interested Beth.

“We were all good friends by the end of it,” she said.

“It was really interesting, everyone I met was completely different with their cooking.

“They were all cooking completely different things in the final.”

Beth usually spends her week travelling up to London to study culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway College.

She balances studying with her first kitchen job at The Restaurant at Drakes in Marine Parade.

Since she was young, cookery has been the only field for Beth.

“When I was seven or eight I was always baking cakes and cookies,” she said.

“When I was 13 I started properly getting into cooking.

“I’d always cook dinner for my parents with my twin sister. It’s the only thing I really liked doing. I like how I can be creative and do what I want. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

“When I was in secondary school my teachers told me about the Young Chef Academy in Westminster where they taught you how to fillet a fish and those kinds of skills.

“I went up there for an interview and looked at everything they had there and knew I wanted to do it.”

Growing up in Brighton, she has always been a fan of the city’s culinary scene.

“I just love how there’s so many different restaurants here,” Beth said.

“In The Lanes there are so many different cuisines packed together.”

Now in her final year at Westminster Kingsway College, Beth hopes to broaden her horizons once she graduates.

“I’ve learned so much already and I’d love to work in lots of different places to learn,” she said.

“I haven’t gone to enough places to get that experience but modern European cuisine is what interests me.

“I’d love to have my own place one day.

“I don’t know yet what I’d want it to be like but I’d love to have somewhere eventually.”