LACA announces School Chef of Year 2020 regional finals

Following the first round of judging of the LACA School Chef of the Year 2020 Competition on 23 - 24 October, 43 school chefs from all ten of the LACA regions have successfully qualified to now go forward to the live regional finals.

These will be held in five locations across Britain between December 2019 – January 2020. The 2020 national final will take place at Stratford Upon Avon College on 5 March.

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.

Competitors have 90 minutes to prepare, cook and present four portions each of a two course imaginative meal suitable for serving en masse to 11-year-olds in primary or secondary schools. 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.

The dishes that feature on the 2020 contestants’ menus demonstrate the ingenuity, skills and culinary expertise of today’s school chefs. With the inspiration for their ingredients, flavours and themes drawn from exotic locations across the globe, their creative and tasty main courses and desserts are destined to seriously challenge the taste buds of the judges.

From pork & vegetable teriyaki, yellow rice, homemade tortillas and natural Greek yogurt dip to flapjack katsu chicken curry, cauliflower rice, steamed beetroot dumpling, vegetable noodle salad and ponzu dressing, these are just some examples of the impressive dishes being lined up for the forthcoming live heats.

As LACA’s School Chef of the Year working group co-ordinator, Carol Harwood (pictured right) will be overseeing each stage of the competition from assisting with the preliminary judging to ensuring the smooth running of each regional heat and the national final.

Head of the 2020 judging panel will be Mark Rigby, Executive Chef, Premier Foods (pictured left). Joining Rigby on the panel at each regional final will be an education catering expert, Sharon Armstrong, LACA (pictured centre), and an independent catering industry professional guest judge.

The first place winners from the secondary stage of the competition will participate as their region’s champion at the national final. Two wild card places will, once again, be offered after the regional heats have been completed. The wild card competitors will have equal opportunity to win the national title.

LACA National Chair, Stephen Forster said, “There is no secret formula to succeeding in the LACA School Chef of the Year Competition. It just requires school chefs with passion, dedication and oodles of culinary skill mixed together with delicious, nutritious dishes prepared with creativity and flair.

'Every year, this competition allows us to demonstrate to the wider world both the professional expertise of today’s school chefs and the excellent meals they prepare tirelessly every day in schools across the country”.

“The impact that this has on the health and vitality of children and young people cannot be underestimated. It underpins why all schools should provide quality, nutritious meals.

'Our school catering teams are totally committed to the role they play in educating children and young people about how food and eating better can help them achieve more, both academically and physically. LACA School Chef of the Year is a celebration of all that’s best about education catering. Good luck to all of our 2020 regional finalists”.

Mark Rigby, Executive Chef at Premier Foods, commented, “Firstly, we want to say a huge thank you to all the school caterers who entered this year’s School Chef of the Year competition, sponsored by McDougalls.

'As our second year sponsoring the contest, our expectations have been surpassed yet again with plenty of flair and creativity, particularly taking into account the restrictions of the tight time limit.

'All of the judges have been extremely impressed with the expertise that the chefs have shown; creating an innovative meal that is not only tasty and delicious but is also nutritious and cost-effective”.

“It’s been a tough decision looking through all the entries at the preliminary judging stage and deciding which of our entrants have made it through to the regional finals as they have been at such a high standard.

'Entrants have really showcased the excellence in school food catering up and down the country, with dishes including everything from Chicken Shawarma Kebabs to Rabbit Pie. We can’t wait to see these come to life in the regional finals over the next few months. Good luck!”