The competition, which is sponsored by MAGGI from Nestle Professional, has been organised by the Lead Association for Catering in Education (LACA) for over two decades. It aims to showcase the professional skills of school chefs and is the flagship event for them to do so.
The final will be held at Stratford upon Avon College in Warwickshire and for the first time features a 50:50 split between male and female contestants.
Each contestant has a maximum of £1.30 to spend and just one and a half hours to prepare their dishes. They are required to produce a healthy balanced two-course meal comprising of a main course and dessert that would appeal to eleven year olds in school. The meals of all competitors must comply with the School Food Standards and take into account the Eat Well Guide 2016. The judges also want to see evidence of use of locally sourced ingredients and the use of sustainable products.
In addition to the kudos of winning the national title, the 2017 champion will this year receive a £1000 cash prize. They will also be awarded a commemorative plaque, a work experience trip and an invitation to a calendar of high profile catering industry engagements between 2017-2018. The national Highly Commended Main Course and Dessert winners will also receive a cash prize of £500 each and commemorative plaques.
Chair of the 2017 National Final Judging Panel is Justin Clarke, Food Development Chef for MAGGI at Nestlé Professional. Also on the National Final Judging Panel will be a professional chef judge (Christopher Basten, Immediate Past Chair, Craft Guild of Chefs), an education catering professional (Jacqui Webb, LACA), a nutritionist (Beth Hooper, Nutrition Manager, Nestlé Professional), the 2016 LACA School Chef of the Year, Katherine Breckon from North Yorkshire and an 11 year old boy and girl from a Stratford upon Avon school.
Sally Shadrack, LACA National Chair, said: “LACA School Chef of the Year is a fantastic way of showing why every school should be striving for a high quality school meals service. School meals play a pivotal role in laying the foundations for children’s future eating habits and their long term health.
“Not only do our front line chefs prepare tasty and imaginative dishes to tempt discerning taste buds but also nutritious meals that can make a major contribution towards altering eating habits, improving diets and decreasing obesity levels. Following a balanced diet and eating well can help our children achieve more both academically and physically.
“All of the contestants who have taken part this year should be inspirational role models for the food and beverage service in every school nationwide. Good luck to all of our 2017 National Finalists.”
Finalists’ main course dishes include: Chinese pork on a bed of crispy lettuce with curly vegetables & noodles and coriander flatbreads; Moroccan chicken with scented couscous & Mediterranean vegetables; Chana gosht (slow cooked kochakk spiced lamb) with mango rice & stewed vegetables in mild coconut sauce; Chilli chicken with an Asian twist with savoury rice, tortilla bread, corn & salad; Spicy basil & tomato chicken with turmeric and raisin rice and chargrilled vegetables; Chicken, spinach, leek & tomato tart with a spaghetti of vegetables and herb roasted potatoes and Yummy in your tummy buttery curry – gluten free chickpea buttery curry with savoury rice, fresh salad, coconut cucumber raita & cumin flatbread.
Desserts range from Mango, lime & coconut cake with passion fruit crème fraiche; Mango frangipane with mango lassie & salsa and Moroccan twist raspberry & lime cheesecake with a peach puree to Apple & blackberry surprise muffin; Rhubarb fool with ginger biscuit crunch and Coconut, orange & raspberry panna cotta tart.
To find out more about the finalists and the competition, click here.