The annual National Association of Care Catering (NACC) Care Chef of the Year competition recognises and celebrates care home chefs, as well as providing a platform to raise awareness of care catering as a highly skilled and rewarding career choice.

Sue Cawthray, the NACC’s national chair says “The competition is the longest standing care chef competition in the UK. It continually challenges people who operate within the care sector to devise innovative and exciting recipes, whilst adhering to a strict budget and meeting the nutritional needs of their clientele.”

Over the past 20 years, the competition has evolved to reflect the changes and developments in the care sector. For the first time in its history, the NACC decided to bring the postponed national final to a close online, due to the pandemic. The competition is supported by the main sponsor Premier Foods and the The Worshipful Company of Cooks.

Sue adds “Care chefs have played an important part in the pandemic frontline effort, so we were determined to find a way to recognise care chefs through this fantastic competition platform. The standard is exceptional and is testament to the selfless dedication of care chefs.”

The finalists in the 2020 competition competed in a series of online cook-offs to showcase their culinary  skills in the safe environment of their own kitchens. In 90 minutes, they had to produce a special two course menu they had created (main and dessert). Combined food cost for both courses was no more than £2.25 per head and it had to be nutritionally balanced and contain one of the listed Premier Foods’ products.

The judges closely watched and spoke to each finalist while designated tasters ensured the judges had a full appreciation of the taste and texture of each dish.

At an online prize presentation held earlier this year, Tim Ware from Green Tree Court Care Home in Exeter was crowned NACC Care Chef of the Year 2020 and won £600. In second place was Matthew Dodds from Gracewell, Ascot, who won £400 and Cheryl Crook from Heol Don Nursing Residential Centre was in third place with £200. In addition to the cash prizes, all three received trophies.

Bev Puxley, Head Judge, says “As chair of judges for several years, I’ve never ceased to be impressed by the enormous talent and dedication shown by chefs who work in this important sector. Judges look for innovation and a balanced menu costed in line with the budget allowed. It needs to be appropriate for the target clientele and with good nutrition to the fore. Other factors include good accurate cooking, demonstrating an understanding of the commodities used, a neat and clean presentation showing good texture, colour and contour balance. The judges observe good working practices, hygiene and training.”

Roger Kellow and Mary Wedge, NACC event organisers have been involved in the competition since its inception in 2000. They said “We understood we were asking our finalists and judges to work in a completely new way, but how they rose to the occasion! It demonstrated the high levels of skill and creativity that exist in the care catering sector.”