>> A care cook who demonstrated innovative use of beetroot has scooped a national catering title.

Oliver Smith was crowned the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) Care Cook of the Year 2015 at the national final held at Barking and Dagenham College’s Technical Skills Academy.

The chef at Wetherby Manor care home, Wetherby, claimed the coveted title with his winning menu of pork tenderloin, celeriac purée, crispy potatoes and apple followed by chocolate mousse with beetroot.

Oliver impressed the judges with his well-balanced menu that tasted great and was fun to eat. He also demonstrated innovative use of beetroot in the dessert, great cooking of the pork and delivered on a nutrition front.

Oliver said of his win: “I am overwhelmed that I have won, especially within a group of such talented and like-minded chefs. The food they all produced was amazing. I absolutely loved the opportunity to meet other chefs and get an insight into what they do and their opinions. I also made new friends. It really has been an incredible experience. My residents have all tried my winning dishes so they will be thrilled that I have won!”

Matthew Dodge, of Coombe Hill Manor in Kingston-upon-Thames, took second place, with Samantha Smallwood, of Sunrise Senior Living of Edgbaston, taking third place.

Neel Radia, national chair of the NACC, said: “The competition was fierce and Oliver proved that he is at the top of his game. All the finalists put on an incredible show of culinary excellence and they should be applauded for their achievements. They proved themselves to be superb ambassadors for catering in the care sector.

“Catering for care environments requires specific skills, knowledge and commitment to ensure that the dietary and nutritional needs of the elderly and vulnerable are met. Important factors such as nutrition, budget restrictions, specific dietary requirements and needs, such as dementia, dysphagia and fortification, menu planning and regulations must be understood. On top of this, they must also possess the culinary ability and creativity to consistently create great-tasting and attractive food that keeps service users excited. It’s clear from every stage of the competition that these vital skills are present in abundance in care settings across the UK.”

One of the longest-standing independent recipe competitions in the UK, the NACC Care Cook of the Year competition successfully raises the profile of the care catering sector as an exciting career choice and champions those working within it.

“It’s clear from every stage of the competition that these vital skills are present in abundance in care settings across the UK.”