LACA announces top ten finalists through to school chef of the year 2018 National Final

With all of the 2018 Regional Finals now completed, the ten strong line up of school chefs who will come face to face on Thursday 8 March to compete for the LACA School Chef of the Year 2018 national title, is now known. The Competition is the flagship event for school chefs to showcase their professional skills. It has been organised annually for over two decades by LACA (Lead Association for CAtering in Education) and is sponsored by MAGGI from Nestlé Professional.  

The 2018 National Final which will be held at Stratford upon Avon College in Warwickshire, is expected to be a fiercely fought cook off.   The Finalists¹ who come from across Britain, will battle it out for the education catering industry’s top award.  They are from the East Midlands (Beeston, Nottingham); East of England (Stevenage, Hertfordshire); London (Romford, Havering); North East & Scotland (Newcastle upon Tyne); North West (Warrington); South East (Carshalton, Surrey); South West (Gillingham, Dorset); Wales (Bridgend, Glamorgan); West Midlands (Southam, Warwickshire) and Yorkshire & Humber (Doncaster). (The full list of Finalists and their locations are on page 3).

In addition to the kudos of winning the national title, the 2018 champion will receive a £1000 cash prize and be awarded the LACA 2018 School Chef of the Year trophy.  He or she will also receive a commemorative plaque, a work experience trip and an invitation to a calendar of high profile catering industry engagements between 2018-2019. The national Second and Third place winners will receive a cash prize of £500 and £300 respectively.

Despite the significant improvements that have taken place within school catering across Britain over the last decade, the Competition is just as important now as ever before.  Its key aims are to show to parents the high quality of school meals today and the contribution they not only make to the health and wellbeing of their children but also their physical and educational attainment.

Once again in the 2018 Competition, the preparation, cooking, creativity and presentation skills of school chefs have been put to the test.   With a maximum spend of £1.30 and just one and a half hours to prepare their dishes, each entrant is expected 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 nutritional content of contestants’ dishes 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.

The dishes that feature on the 2018 contestant’s menus demonstrate the exceptional culinary expertise, creativity and flair of school chefs.  With the inspiration for their ingredients, flavours and themes drawn from both home and locations across the globe, their imaginative main course and dessert dishes are set to seriously challenge the taste buds of the Judges at the National Final.

The Chair of the 2018 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 (tbc), an education catering professional (Jacqui Webb, LACA), a nutritionist (Beth Hooper, Nutrition Manager, Nestlé Professional ), the 2017 LACA School Chef of the Year, Tracy Healy from West Yorkshire and an 11 year old boy and girl from a Stratford upon Avon school.

Giving his views about the success of this year’s Competition, Tim Blowers, LACA National Chair says:  “LACA School Chef of the Year is an excellent way of showing why all schools nationwide should be striving for a high quality school meals service. It’s a snapshot of the passion and professional expertise of today’s school chefs and of the commitment and culinary skill they put into producing high quality meals tirelessly every single day in schools across the country”.

“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 and establishing balanced diets.  Offering healthy choices in school and increasing awareness of dietary factors such as sugar intake and its impact on dental health, will not only help to establish healthier lifestyles and reduce obesity levels but also allow children and young people to achieve more both academically and physically.  Every contestant who has taken part this year should be applauded and all should be recognised as inspirational role models for the food and beverage service in schools nationwide. My best wishes go to all ten of our 2018 National Finalists”.

Charlotte Ponti, Savoury Food Manager, Nestlé Professional added: “It is really invigorating to see the passion, pride and creativity all the school chefs have shown during the competition this year. They have demonstrated their true dedication to the art of being a school chef to create nutritious meals. It is clear that the ten finalists selected are serious competitors and we wish them all the best for the 2018 National Final”.

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