Hertfordshire cook scoops inaugural Care Caterer of the Year title

A care caterer from Hertfordshire has been named the winner of the first ever Care Caterer of the Year competition, created in partnership by Bisto and Country Range.

After a gruelling live cook-off between five finalists, Juliana Martins Pinto, caterer at Cuffley Manor Care Home in Potters Bar, claimed the top accolade.

Juliana cooked her way to victory with her main dish of Bisto Chicken Ballotine stuffed with spinach and mushroom, served with hasselback potatoes, asparagus spears, carrots and Bisto Chicken Gravy Granules.

Her dessert dish of Poached Pears served with Country Range Custard and toasted flaked almonds was the perfect final sweet touch to seal her victory and win the judges over.

It was a nice opportunity to see how other chefs work and I learned how to change some of my techniques. I use Country Range ingredients every day so I already know they are a very good product. Alexios-Michail Kyriakou, Enstone Care Home

The brief

  • The brief was to create a main which included a Bisto product and a dessert dish, which included a Country Range dessert product.
  • The total budget for both dishes could not exceed £2.25.
  • The competition was open to chefs working in the public and private care sector.

Entrants had to submit their recipes and photos of their dishes for paper judging. Five finalists were then selected and invited to take part in the competition final, at Premier Foods’ head office in St Albans. They had just 90 minutes to prepare and cook three portions of their chosen main meal and dessert dish.

The prizes

  • £1,000 vouchers for the winning care home
  • £250 John Lewis vouchers for the winning chef
  • All finalists won a set of professional kitchen knives

Winner Juliana Martins Pinto, head chef at Carlton Court Care Home, TLC Care, commented: “I’m so delighted to have been crowned the winner of this new competition. I’m still in shock as the quality of the dishes produced by the other finalists was so high. It’s so nice to see that tasty food which is presented well is being served at care homes up and down the country.

“The £1,000 prize for Cuffley Manor will have such an impact on my colleagues and the residents, helping us hugely in the kitchen. I’m also very much looking forward to spending my £250 John Lewis voucher and treating myself.”

The judges

Mark Rigby, executive chef at Premier Foods

Preston Walker, representing the National Association of Care Catering (NACC)

Emma Holden, marketing coordinator for the Country Range Group

Country Range’s Emma Holden, said: “Care caterers work extremely hard and do an incredibly important job, often in very difficult circumstances, balancing a multitude of different dietary and medical requirements. “Country Range is proud to champion their hard work and dedication, and shine a spotlight on their knowledge and creativity. “This inaugural competition has been a great start to what we hope will be an annual occurrence. “It’s so important that we continue to hold competitions like the ‘Bisto and Country Range Care Caterer of the Year’ to celebrate the talent of care caterers and highlight the importance of maintaining great food standards in a care home environment.”

Sarah Robb, channel marketing manager at Premier Foods, added: “We were so excited to taste the dishes we’d shortlisted on paper and witness them come to life at the final. They certainly didn’t disappoint. I want to say a huge congratulations and a big thank you to all those who were shortlisted, and to those who took the time to enter and attend the live final. “Our winner, Juliana, was incredible, she scored highly on her great working method, cleanliness and timing. The chicken dish she created was deliciously moist and the whole menu really worked well together.”

The other finalists

Sheila Wallen, Ramping Cat Nursing Home, Burford, Oxfordshire

  • Minted lamb pasty with new potatoes, swede purée, broccoli cheese
  • Cherry apple crumble with custard

Alexios-Michail Kyriakou, Enstone Care Home, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

  • Cottage pie
  • Abstract fruit crumble and ice cream

Susan Davidson, Dunlady Nursing Home, Belfast

  • Smoked haddock and broccoli gratin served with green beans, potato rosti and poached egg
  • Pear and blackberry compote serve with crème anglaise and pistachio crumble

Anas Alsaadi, Cooperscroft Care Home, Potters Bar

  • Chicken supreme with gravy
  • Date balls with coconut

It was absolutely amazing – such a lovely experience! I’m definitely going to try again next year. It’s so important to recognise the work of care caterers. We work so hard and try our best on very low budgets so it’s great to be valued for our efforts. Susan Davidson, Dunlady Nursing Home