Masterchef finalist Leon Dodds aims to get Sunderland pub in the Michelin guide

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A MASTERCHEF finalist hopes to rustle up a recipe for success at a pub kitchen.

Leon Dodds, who impressed top chef Michel Roux to reach the finals of Masterchef: the Professionals in 2008, is hoping to bring a flavour of the nation’s biggest cookery show to The Cavalier.

He’s taken over the reins in the kitchen at the Silksworth venue and has devised a new menu which features pub classics with a twist.

Leon, from Roker, was asked to join the staff by The Cavalier’s Mark Scorer after the pair met while working together for Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne at his Bistro 21 restaurant in Durham.

The 35-year-old was most recently the chef at Harbour Lights in South Shields where he helped it to earn an inclusion in the prestigious Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide.

Leon said: “There’s a lot of mediocrity when it comes to food in the area and a lot of the pubs don’t cook their food from scratch, but I want to provide good, honest food using produce that’s on our doorstep.

“The menu will be pub classics, but there’s quite an eclectic mix on there. It’s about doing simple things well. Both Mark and myself came through Terry’s ranks, so we’re both of a good skill set and I think there’s a lot of potential here.

“It’s a good location, there’s free parking and it means you don’t have to go into the city centre for good food.”

He added: “I was at Harbour Lights for two years, during which time it became the first pub in South Tyneside to be featured in the Michelin Guide. Hopefully, we can repeat that success here.”

Dishes featured on the new menu include Vietnamese jungle curry, inspired by Leon’s time travelling in Asia, and rabbit and black pudding pie.

He added: “Being on Masterchef, getting great feedback from chefs whose cookery books are on my shelves, was a massive confidence boost. I don’t think the North East maybe gets recognised for all the great foods and chefs we have here, but recently there’s been a lot of finalists in the show from this area.”

The Cavalier, formerly Hunter’s Lodge, opened last year after a group of businessmen took over the site.