LACA reveals School Chef of the Year 2020 finalists

With all ten of the regional finals now completed, the line up of school chefs who will compete for the much coveted national title of the LACA School Chef of the Year 2020, is now revealed.

The 2020 national final which takes place on Thursday March 5 at Stratford upon Avon College in Warwickshire, is expected to be a fiercely fought cook off.

The competition is the flagship event for school chefs to showcase their professional skills. It has been organised annually for over two decades by LACA - The School Food People and is sponsored by McDougalls owned by Premier Foods.

As a result of the outstanding culinary expertise and some close results during the regional heats, the judges have, once again, decided to award wild card places for the 2020 national final to two of the next best performing competitors. Steven Cross from Hampshire, one of last year’s two wild card entrants, went on to clinch the 2019 national title and is the reigning School Chef of the Year. This year’s two wild card entrants are South East runner up, Wendy Lohse from the Isle of Wight and South West joint runner up, Catherine Deane from Yealmpton, Devon.

Each of the 12 national finalists now taking part has an equal chance of winning the education catering industry’s top competition award for 2020.
The ten regional champions are:
•Sara Franklin, Campion School, Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire (Radish/Campion School)
•Annalisa Grief, West Winch Primary School, West Winch, Norfolk (Norse Catering)
•Raheem Morgan, Coopers Lane Primary School, Grove Park (Chartwells Lewisham)
•Gavin Macgregor, Regional Support Chef, Newcastle (Chartwells)
•Holly Charnock, Woodlands Primary School, Formby, Liverpool (Sefton Catering Services)
•Cheryl Humphries, High Weald Academy, Cranbrook, Kent (ISS Education)
•Jennifer Brown, Sarum Academy, Salisbury, Wiltshire (Academy, part of Atalian Servest Group)
•Jane Jones, Ysgol Twm or Nant, Denbigh, Wales (Denbighshire County Council)
•Lee Taylor, John Gulsom Primary School, Coventry, Warwickshire (Academy, part of Atalian Servest Group)
•Becky Crossley, York High School, York (North Yorkshire County Council)
The wild card competitors are:
• Wendy Lohse, Isle of Wight primary schools (Caterlink)
• Catherine Deane, Yealmpton Primary School, Yealmpton, Devon (Devon Norse)

In addition to the kudos of winning the national title, the 2020 champion will receive a £1000 cash prize and the LACA 2020 School Chef of the Year trophy. The winner will also be awarded a work experience trip and an invitation to a calendar of high profile catering industry engagements between 2020 - 2021. The national second and third place winners will receive cash prizes of £500 and £300 respectively.

All participants in the LACA School Chef of the Year Competition have a maximum of £1.30 to spend and 90 minutes to prepare, cook and serve an imaginative, school compliant two course menu. This must meet all of the judging criteria which include the use of a minimum of one different McDougalls product in each course. Contestants can choose ingredients from a wide selection of McDougalls Foodservice products including McDougalls Plain Flour and Soft Bap Mix. In addition, the meal must also be suitable for serving en masse in school to 11 year olds.

Contestants recipes are expected to reflect the school food standards to which every school in the country is asked to adhere. The dishes that feature on the 2020 national finalists’ menus not only demonstrate the ingenuity and high standard of today’s school chefs but also the importance placed on delivering maximum nutritional value for children and young people. With the inspiration for their ingredients, flavours and themes drawn from home and abroad, their delicious main courses and desserts are destined to seriously challenge the taste buds of the judges at the national final.

Head of the School Chef of the Year 2020 Judging Panel is Mark Rigby, Executive Chef, Premier Foods. Joining Mark on the panel at the 2020 national final will be an independent catering industry professional guest chef, an education catering expert (Sharon Armstrong, LACA), the reigning LACA School Chef of the Year 2019, Steven Cross from Hampshire and the 2019 McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year finalists who are pupils at Kingstone and Thruxton Primary School, Hereford (Joseph Rickwood, Oliver Stokes and Sophie Ellis).

Giving his views on the 2020 competition and the forthcoming national final, LACA National Chair, Stephen Forster said: “LACA School Chef of the Year is a snapshot of the passion and professionalism of today’s school chefs and of the commitment they put into producing high quality meals every day in schools across the country. As we have seen an extraordinary level of creativity and culinary skill during the 2020 competition, we are thrilled to extend the opportunity to compete at national level to two more deserving school chefs as a result of the judges’ wild card choices. What an outstanding line up of talent we have for this year’s national final. My best wishes go to all twelve of our 2020 national finalists”.

Mark Rigby, Executive Chef, Premier Foods, commented: “The culinary expertise we have seen in the regional finals has been outstanding over the past two months. For the second year we have had the hardest decision of picking two wild cards out of all of our runner’s up – no mean feat, given that all cooks performed to such a high standard in their regional finals. As a panel of judges, we are all excited for the final in March where the best of the best will compete to be crowned the LACA School Chef of the Year 2020. Good luck to you all”.