With all 10 of the regional finals now completed, the line up of school chefs who will compete for the much coveted national title of the LACA School Chef of the Year 2019, is now revealed.  The 2019 national final which takes place on Thursday March 7 at Stratford upon Avon College in Warwickshire, is expected to be a fiercely fought cook off.

The competition is the flagship event for school chefs to showcase their professional skills. It has been organised annually for over two decades by the Lead Association for CAtering in Education (LACA) and is sponsored by McDougalls owned by Premier Foods.

New for this year’s national final will be the addition of two wild card competitors.  As a result of the outstanding culinary expertise and some close results during the live regional heats, the judges have decided to award two extra places for the next best performing competitors.

Each of the 12 national finalists now taking part has an equal chance of clinching the education catering industry’s top competition award for 2019.  The 10 regional champions are:

  • Sara Franklin, Campion School, Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire (Radish/Campion School)
  • Katherine Bridge, Breachwood Green JMI School, Hitchin, Hertfordshire (HCL)
  • Michelle Creed, Broadford Primary School, Romford (Havering Catering Services)
  • Karen Cuthbertson, The Mary Erskine School, Edinburgh (Inspire Catering)
  • Cheryl Allen, St Mary’s CE Primary School, Manchester (Manchester Fayre)
  • Josefine Austin, Beacon Hill Primary School, Hindhead, Surrey (Surrey Commercial Services) •Dave Leeper, The Trafalgar School at Downton, Salisbury, Wiltshire (Trafalgar School)
  • Jane Jones, Ysgol Twm or Nant, Denbigh, Wales (Denbighshire County Council)
  • Tanya Malone, Rugby Free Secondary School, Rugby, Warwickshire (Educaterers)
  • Matt Betts, The Mill Academy, Barnsley, Yorkshire (BMBC Schools Catering Service)

The wild card competitors:

  • Cheryl Humphries, High Weald Academy, Cranbrook, Kent (ISS Education)
  • Steven Cross (pictured), Park Community School, Havant, Hampshire (Park Community School)

In addition to the kudos of winning the national title, the 2019 champion will receive a £1000 cash prize and the LACA 2019 School Chef of the Year trophy.  The winner will also be awarded a work experience trip and an invitation to a calendar of high profile catering industry engagements between 2019 – 2020. The national second and third place winners will receive cash prizes of £500 and £300 respectively.

All participants in the LACA School Chef of the Year Competition have a maximum of £1.30 to spend and 90 minutes to prepare, cook and serve an imaginative, school compliant two-course menu.  This must meet all of the judging criteria which include the use of a minimum of one different McDougalls product in each course.  Contestants can choose ingredients from a wide selection of McDougalls Foodservice products including McDougalls Plain Flour and Soft Bap Mix.  In addition, the meal must also be suitable for serving en masse in school to 11 year olds.

Contestants recipes are expected to reflect the school food standards to which every school in the country is asked to adhere.  The dishes that feature on the 2019 national finalists’ menus not only demonstrate the ingenuity and high standard of today’s school chefs but also the importance placed on delivering maximum nutritional value for children and young people.  With the inspiration for their ingredients, flavours and themes drawn from exotic locations across the globe, their delicious main courses and desserts are destined to seriously challenge the taste buds of the judges at the national final.

Head of the School Chef of the Year 2019 Judging Panel is Mark Rigby, executive chef, Premier Foods.  Joining Mark on the panel will be an independent catering industry professional guest chef, an education catering expert (Sharon Armstrong, LACA), the reigning LACA School Chef of the Year 2018, Michael Goulston from Hertfordshire and the winning team of children from the 2018 McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year who are pupils at St Martin & St Mary’s C of E Primary School, Windermere.

Giving his views on the 2019 competition and the forthcoming national final, LACA national chair, Michael Hales, said: “LACA School Chef of the Year is a snapshot of the passion and professionalism of today’s school chefs and of the commitment they put into producing high quality meals every day in schools across the country.  As we have seen an extraordinary level of creativity and culinary skill during the 2019 competition, we are thrilled to extend the opportunity to compete at national level to two more deserving school chefs as a result of the judges’ wild card choices.  What an outstanding line up of talent we have for this year’s national final.  My best wishes go to all twelve of our 2019 national finalists”.

Mark Rigby commented: “As a judging panel, we have been overwhelmed at the variety and the sheer quality of the dishes we have been presented with in the regional finals over the past two months.  Not only have we had to decide the winning chef at each of the regional finals, no mean feat, we have had the tough decision of choosing two wild card chefs from the incredibly high standard cook offs.  We are all looking forward to the final in March, good luck to all of our finalists”.