MICHAEL OWEN proved to be a dark horse in emerging as the surprise winner of Gino's Stoke Kitchen . . . and then quipped: "Well, I did come here to win trophies!"
The England striker, who confessed that making toast and pot noodles was the extent of his cooking skills, came out on top of a contest in which his team-mates Thomas Sorensen and Michael Kightly also showed off their culinary skills to guests at the Britannia Stadium.
Owen followed in the footsteps of Rory Delap and Matthew Upson in being crowned the Club's Master Chef for 2012 after impressing the 300 people who were dining in the Tony Waddington Suite, as well as the Italian celebrity chef Gino D'Acampo.
The trio of wannabe chefs were challenged to prepare starters, main courses and desserts in a special show kitchen for a panel of judges that included D'Acampo, Soccer AM's Tubes and Peter Wright from the event's main sponsors Wrights Food Group.
Although each player succeeded in winning a course - Sorensen the starter, Owen the main course and Kightly the dessert - it was the former Liverpool and Manchester United star who eventually came out on top after the guests at the event also cast their votes.
"I did say I'd come to Stoke City to win something, so for that to happen only a few weeks into my career here is great, even if it was not quite what I was expecting," he commented after a long night's work in the heat of the kitchen.
"It was an exciting evening, and I'm really pleased everyone seemed to enjoy it. All the lads suggested it would be a fun night and I'm really pleased that I took part."
He added: "Obviously winning the award is the icing on the cake, but I'm not sure that I'll be taking many tips back to the kitchen with me!"
While the three City's players found themselves under the spotlight, D'Acampo provided excellent entertainment throughout the evening, thus confirming his growing reputation for being one of the most colourful characters in his profession.
When speaking after the results of the vote had been announced, the 36-year-old from Napoli admitted his shock at the outcome!
"I was very, very surprised that Michael won! I don't somehow think he's going to follow in my footsteps, but good on him!" he said.
"I think it's going to give him the confidence to get in the kitchen and make himself something to eat. I wouldn't let him in the kitchen by himself though, because I'd still be a little worried that he'd break everything!"
As part of the night, a collection of signed memorabilia from the players was auctioned off to help raise a substantial amount for Stoke City's Community Fund, and D'Acampo was pleased with the generosity of the guests.
"Tonight was great, especially because all the people spent their money generously for the Community Fund," he added.
"Also, I saw the plates coming back empty - as a chef, that's what you want to see! They must have enjoyed the food a lot. It was a good night all round."