Michael Goulston, the 2018 East of England finalist, has scooped the national title of LACA School Chef of the Year 2018.

He was voted Britain’s No 1 school chef by a panel of judges at the National Final which took place on 8 March at Stratford upon Avon College, Warwickshire. For the first time in its 20 year history, a male school chef has overturned the ladies’ dominance at the top of the roster of annual national winners to secure the education catering industry’s most prestigious culinary award.

Michael’s winning dishes were: Main Course: Chicken stuffed with Herb Mousseline, Baked Potato Gnocchi in a Tomato Sauce, Broccoli and Roasted Carrots en Papillote – Oven baked, Southern crumbed chicken with herb mousseline, gnocchi and vegetables.

Dessert: Coconut Cheesecake, Pineapple and Strawberry Compote, Tuile Biscuit – Light creamy refreshing cheesecake, pineapple and strawberry compote and tuille biscuit. Amongst the ingredients used in his main course were MAGGI® Rich & Rustic Tomato Sauce, MAGGI® Mash Potato Mix, MAGGI® Gluten Free Chicken Bouillon, MAGGI® Béchamel Sauce, MAGGI® Coconut Milk Powder and MAGGI® Southern Fried Crunchy Bake. Michael also used MAGGI® Mash Potato Mix, MAGGI® Coconut Milk Powder, Nestlé Cheerios and Nestlé Shreddies in his dessert.

Michael’s competition dishes were designed to introduce some bold flavour profiles into his pupils’ food with the aim of establishing varying spice levels to begin to develop young palates. He used Red Tractor Farm Assured Chicken from a Stevenage butcher and fresh vegetables from the school’s local fruit and vegetable supplier.

Michael Goulston has been a school chef for five years. Two years ago, he took over the position of Mobile Cook Manager for Hertfordshire Catering Ltd (HCL) with his base school being Peartree Spring Primary School, Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Together with his team, he prepares from 300 – 500 meals a day for nursery and primary school age pupils.

Having children of his own led him to seek a position in education catering. Michael loves to cook and thoroughly enjoys the diversity of his role as a School Chef. He finds it rewarding to encourage pupils to try new exciting flavours and ingredients by making food fun, nutritional and well balanced. His own children often help with the preparation of family meals at home and listening to their feedback on food has given him the drive and enthusiasm to proudly cook in HCL schools every day.

Each contestant had a maximum of £1.30 to spend and just one and a half hours to prepare their dishes. They were 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 had to comply with the School Food Standards and take into account the Eat Well Guide 2016. The judges also wanted to see evidence of use of locally sourced ingredients and the use of sustainable products.

Tim Blowers, LACA national chair, said: “My congratulations go to Michael Goulston. His success in taking the national title is a major achievement given the exceptional culinary skills shown by all of this year’s competitors. 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 expertise of today’s school chefs and of the commitment and professionalism they put into producing high quality meals 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”.

On winning the national title of LACA School Chef of the Year 2018, Michael Goulston said: “With the standard and skill level amongst this year’s finalists being so high, I felt it was an achievement in itself just getting through to the national final, let alone being able to compete with such a talented group of people. All of this just goes to prove what a good job school chef’s do, day in, day out, up and down the country in providing tasty, nutritious meals for millions of children.”