The search for Britain’s next LACA School Chef of the Year, the education catering industry’s premier culinary competition, gets underway today (11 July).  School chefs nationwide are now being invited to register to take part in the search for the 2019 national champion.  Organised by the Lead Association for CAtering in Education (LACA) and sponsored by McDougalls, owned by Premier Foods, the 2019 competition is being launched at the LACA Main Event at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole (July 11 – 13).   Competitors’ menus are expected to reflect the school food standards to which every school in the country is asked to adhere.  These form the basis of the menus that provide every five to seven year old in England with a school lunch through the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals Programme.

The new sponsorship agreement with McDougalls, announced in April this year,  has provided an opportunity for the competition organisers to review the entry and judging criteria to align it further with current food standards and general consumer eating trends.  The result is the creation of a brand new design identity for the competition, a new streamlined organisational framework and rules and judging criteria which have been fine tuned to facilitate the entry and participation process.  

Head of the 2019 Judging Panel is Mark Rigby, executive chef, Premier Foods, who will oversee each stage of the new Competition which includes the preliminary judging round later this year, each of the Regional Finals and the 2019 National Final.  Joining Mark on the panel will be an education catering expert (Sharon Armstrong, LACA) and a catering industry professional guest judge at each location.  

The reigning 2018 LACA School Chef of the Year, Michael Goulston from Peartree Primary School, Hertfordshire, who, in March 2018, became the first ever male school chef to win the national title in its 25 year history, will be showcasing his winning dishes at the LACA Main Event.  He will also be demonstrating to industry visitors the culinary flair and skills needed by school chefs hoping to be the one to raise the 2019 trophy at the National Final.

Entrants have 90 minutes to prepare, cook and serve an imaginative, school compliant two course menu including a minimum of one different McDougalls product in each, suitable for serving en masse in school to 11 year old pupils.  Competitors can select ingredients from the full range of McDougalls Foodservice products.

The 2019 competition is open to all staff that hold a kitchen based post and who are involved in the daily preparation of pupil’s meals at the time of entry. Entries may be submitted by any school meal provider whether local authority, contract caterer, academy or free school. Registrations must be submitted by 29 September 2018.  Submission of formal entries is required by 17 October 2018 with the first round of judging scheduled for later that month.  Successful candidates from this stage will go forward to participate in the ten live Regional Finals which will be held in five different locations around Britain between November 2018 – January 2019.  The National Final takes place next March.

Regional Final winners will each receive a £100 cash prize.  At the National Final, the 2019 National Winner will received a £1000 cash prize, the 2019 LACA School Chef of the Year trophy, an invitation to a calendar of catering industry events and a work experience trip.  The national Second and Third place winners will receive £500 and £300 respectively.

Commenting on the launch of the new format 2019 LACA School Chef of the Year Competition, LACA chair of events, Neil Porter, says: “The new partnership with McDougalls has given us the opportunity to create an exciting new identity and structure for our industry’s highest profile and longest running chef competition.  We are certain that it’s easier, more up to date style will not only attract more competitors but will further increase the Competition’s prestige and very importantly for school chefs nationwide, the kudos from taking part”. 

Premier Foods channel marketing manager, Sarah Robb, says: “We are extremely proud to be sponsoring such a prestigious competition within the industry and we can’t wait to see the registrations start rolling in. We are confident after having reviewed the competition’s entry mechanic that we have made it an easier and more attractive proposition for entrants and we hope that this will be reflected in the entry numbers. Our McDougalls range is easy-to-use and versatile, allowing school caterers to get creative and show innovative ways in which they can incorporate our products into any school menu. Caterers – get your thinking caps on and we look forward to seeing your creations!”

To register, download the 2019 LACA School Chef of the Year sponsored by McDougalls Participation Pack at