THE CHEF of a pub near Worcester is savouring the sweet taste of success by reaching the finals of a pie competition.

Stephen Turnball, who works in the kitchen at the Hadley Bowling Green, came within a whisker of taking the overall crown for the best pie in a contest organised by brewery Wadworth.

The Hadley Bowling Green is the most northerly pub managed by the Wiltshire brewery and boasts one of the oldest crown bowling greens and clubs in the country.

The brewery has been staging its annual pie competition for 12 years and this year was the first time the local hostelry managed to reach the final contenders.

Stephen submitted his creation which was a Duo of Oxtail and Brisket Goulash pie which received a great response from the pubs customers who supported the entry by voting for it in the competition. His entry received the highest number of customer votes but they were not enough to see him clinch first place.

His recipe used oxtail, beef brisket, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, tomato puree, celery, gravy, garlic and spices. It is served in a short crust pastry with a puff pastry lid alongside, mashed potato and seasonal vegetables.

There were 38 entries in this year’s competition and six went through to the finals, making it one of the toughest pie competition in its 12-year history.

Entrants were asked to submit recipes with allergen information, as well as a cost breakdown. Individual pubs then promoted their pies to customers who gave feedback on the dishes through an online link. The customer feedback this year was really high, with 700 votes being casted, and was used to cut down the competition to the final six.

Seven judges including Wadworth’s head of managed houses Rupert Bagnall, then tasted the pies and judged them on presentation, quality of pastry, quality of filling, strength of flavours, quality and innovation, value for money and standard of service.

Chef Stephen Turnball, from Hadley Bowling Green, said: “I am really proud to have been chosen as a finalist and to be representing Hadley Bowling Green in the 12th annual pie competition. The support from the community was overwhelming, and I want to say a big thank you to everyone that voted for the pie.”

Rupert Bagnell, head of managed houses at Wadworth, said: “A terrific diverse range of pies made the finals this year, with flavours from warm spice to superfoods, making the judging both incredibly close and difficult. Congratulations to all the finalists.”

This year’s winner was Jake McBride from Avon Causeway at the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire. He came up with a Pork, Chorizo and Sunblush pie.

To celebrate National Pie Week, the winning pie will be sold across Wadworth’s managed pubs from March 5 while stocks last.