Still hope for Laura the chef

SHE may not have been born with a wooden spoon in her mouth, but Laura Patten might still earn her living in a kitchen, even after failing a smart London cookery course.

Fiona Burrell, one of the principals of Leith's School of Food and Wine (the other is Caroline Waldegrave, wife of the Governor's former cabinet colleague, William Waldegrave) told P.S. it was no disgrace that Chris Patten's 18-year-old daughter passed the first two terms, but failed the finals of the year-long $84,000 diploma course.

Ms Burrell added: ''I know lots of second chefs who did not pass the course, but they still have the right skills for the job.'' What appeared to be Laura's undoing were the final exams - a three-hour theory paper, a two-hour written exam and an exhausting five-hour practical that involved making puff pastry, a complicated sauce, deboning a joint of lamb, making stock, and finishing with a pudding.

''Chefs tend to specialise in one area, so many professionals would find this sort of menu difficult,'' said Ms Burrell.

Next month Laura will travel on a family holiday to Tuscany, where she will presumably put her new-found skills to good use.

Ms Burrell said the course stressed vegetarian and low-fat cuisine - good news for the Governor, who is still on doctor's orders to watch his diet or risk aggravating his heart condition.