The search for Britain’s LACA School Chef of the Year 2020 is now underway. School chefs nationwide are being invited to showcase their culinary skills and to set their sights on scooping the 2020 trophy. The prestige of becoming the next national champion and £1000 in prize money are up for grabs! Organised by the LACA – The School Food People and sponsored by McDougalls, owned by Premier Foods, School Chef of the Year is the education catering sector’s premier culinary skills competition.

The 2019 winner was Steven Cross from Park Community School, Hampshire. One of two wildcard entrants selected by the judges from the regional finals, Steven went on to clinch this year’s national crown. In doing so, he became LACA’s 25th title holder and is the reigning School Chef of the Year.

The competition’s focus is on school chefs producing healthy, nutritious meals for 11 year olds in primary or secondary schools. The 2020 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.

Competitors have 90 minutes to prepare, cook and present four portions each of a two course imaginative meal suitable for serving en masse in school. The meal must comply with School Food Standards and take into account the East Well Guide 2016.  The food cost for one main course and dessert must not exceed £1.30 and a minimum of one different McDougalls product is required in each. Competitors can select ingredients from the full range of McDougalls Foodservice products.

Head of the 2020 judging panel is Mark Rigby, executive chef, Premier Foods, who will oversee each stage of the competition which includes the preliminary judging, each of the regional finals and the 2020 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.

Registrations must be submitted by September 27 with submission of formal entries required by October 16.  Successful candidates from the first round of judging at the end of October will go forward to participate in the ten live regional finals which will be held in five different locations around Britain between November 2019 – January 2020.  The national final takes place next March. Two national final wild card places will, once again, be offered after the regional heats have been completed.

Regional final winners will each receive a £100 cash prize.  At the national final, the 2020 national winner will receive a £1000 cash prize, the 2020 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 at the start of the 2020 LACA School Chef of the Year Competition, LACA Chair, Stephen Forster says: “We are delighted that our partnership with McDougalls is continuing for a second year following a highly successful 2019 competition which saw only our second male school chef win in its history.  LACA’s annual initiative is a revealing window into the world of school catering.  Each year the judges are wowed by the continually evolving skill levels, the imagination and flair which go into devising and delivering contemporary food choices that are both nutritious and match young people’s street wise expectations.As our 2019 national finalists and ultimate champion demonstrated, there is an extraordinary level of talent in our school kitchens. So come on school caterers, let’s showcase that now – enter your star for 2020!”

Sarah Robb, Channel Marketing Manager at Premier Foods, adds: “It’s a really exciting time for us at Premier Foods as we enter the second year of McDougalls’ sponsorship of the LACA School Chef of the Year competition. We were so impressed with the calibre of entries from last year’s competition and the chefs’ dedication to creating incredible school meals for their pupils on a regular basis, and we can’t wait to see more creativity this year. Despite such a strict time limit, the quality of dishes the school chefs create is really impressive and we are grateful that we can continue to support such dedicated advocates in school catering.

“Our McDougalls range is so versatile and includes easy to use bases for both sweet and savoury dishes, allowing school chefs to get their creative juices flowing when developing their school compliant entries for the competition. We’re looking forward to tasting the dishes created this year which will no doubt help showcase what a great industry school catering is to work in.”

To register, download the 2020 LACA School Chef of the Year sponsored by McDougalls Participation Pack at