Tanya Watkin wins LACA’s school chef of the year title

Tanya Watkin of Woodland Middle Academy School in Flitwick, Bedfordshire has won LACA’s School Chef of the Year 2014 competition. She won through from among nine regional winners at the final held yesterday at Food Services Wing, Defence Logistics School, Worthy Down near Winchester, Hampshire.

The competition, organised annually by LACA, is sponsored by Maggi from Nestlé Professional.

Tanya claimed her place in the national final for the third time after winning the Eastern regional final held Barnfield College, Luton back in January.

She works for Bedfordshire County Council and served up to judges a main course of Spanish chicken cocido (chicken, vegetable and chickpea stew flavoured with saffron served with chorizo tortilla and rustic bread) followed by Crema de Sant Josep (madeleine sponge baked in citrus caramel egg custard served with orange, strawberry and mint salsa).

The winner of the Highly Commended Main Course was Shereene Weston, the London region winner.

Shereene, who works at St Mary Magdelen Catholic Primary School and is employed by Chartwells on behalf of the London Borough of Lewisham, cooked a main course of ‘sticky kicky chicken’ (spicy free range chicken thigh with roti bread, healthy slaw, sweet potato wedges and pepper and lime salsa).

The winner of the Highly Commended Dessert was Bridget McCulla, the North East & Scotland regional school chef of the year, who works at Jarrow School for South Tyneside Council Catering Services and served up a tropical fruit trio (coconut-infused steamed sponge pudding with pineapple pannacotta and warm mango sauce).

The Marketing Award went to Kate Davies, the Welsh Region winner who works at St Gwladys Primary School, Bargoed for Caerphilly County Borough Council.

There was disappointment for Debbie Sidlow of Meadowbank Primary School, who works for Manchester Fayre and won through to the final as the winner of the North West Region round. She missed the final for medical reasons and left the nine other regional finalists to compete on the day.

This celebrated annual competition aims to show the high quality of school meals to parents and the important contribution they can make to not only the health and wellbeing of their children but also their physical and educational attainment.

It is designed to be a tough competition, with criteria that really put the preparation, cooking, creativity and presentation skills of school chefs to the test.

Each entrant is required to produce, in just one and a half hours, a healthy, balanced two-course meal comprising a main course and dessert designed to appeal to eleven-year-olds in school.

A maximum of £1.60 is allowed for the cost of a single meal (i.e. main course and dessert) for one child.

With the competition rules requiring recipes to reflect the global influences on school meals and the ethnic and cultural mix of a school’s pupil population, competition sponsor, Maggi at Nestlé Professional has included an extensive selection of its products in the competition basket to help contestants’ enhance the creativity of their menus.

Products include Maggi Liquid Concentrated Fonds, such as Maggi Asian Liquid Concentrated Fonds, as well as Maggi Coconut Milk Powder, Maggi Devil’s Jam, and Maggi Rich & Rustic Tomato Sauce.

Also included are Maggi Original Vegetarian Gravy, Maggi Mashed Potato Flakes, Maggi Béchamel Sauce, Docello Crème Brûlée Mix and Docello  Panna Cotta Mix. The contestants are required to incorporate a minimum of two Maggi products in their main course and any Nestlé product can be used in their dessert.

The 2014 National Finalists were:

East Midlands School Chef of the Year 2014
Gail Boyce, Bolsover C of E Junior School, Bolsover  (Derbyshire CC)

Eastern School Chef of the Year 2014
Tanya Watkin, Woodland Middle Academy School, Flitwick, Beds (Beds CC)

London School Chef of the Year 2014
Shereene Weston, St Mary Magdelen Catholic Primary School, Lewisham (LB of Lewisham)

North East & Scotland School Chef of the Year 2014
Bridget McCulla,  Jarrow School, Tyne & Wear  (S Tyneside Council)

North West School Chef of the Year 2014
Debbie Sidlow, Meadowbank Primary School, Manchester  (Manchester City Council) – Unable to take part on the day

South East School Chef of the Year 2014
Alison Dombrick, Bentley Primary School, Bentley, Hampshire (HC3S)

South West School Chef of the Year 2014
Jodie Pearce, Wembury Primary School, Plymouth, (Devon Norse)

Welsh School Chef of the Year 2014
Kate Davies, St Gwladys Primary School, Bargoed (Caerphilly CBC)

West Midlands School Chef of the Year 2014
Vicky Brammer, Crescent Academy, Stoke on Trent (Stoke on Trent Council)

Yorks & Humber School Chef of the Year 2014
Katherine Breckon, Westcliffe CP School, Whitby (N Yorkshire CC)