LACA School Chef 2020 crowned

Holly Charnock from Liverpool, the 2020 North West regional finalist, has won the national title of LACA School Chef of the Year 2020. She was voted Britain’s No 1 school chef by a panel of judges at the National Final, which took place on 5 March at Stratford upon Avon College, Warwickshire.

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.

Charnock’s winning dishes:
Main Course: Braised beef tortellini on a bed of soya bean and spinach, a tomato and basil sauce, balsamic reduction and a parmesan crisp. Dessert: Chocolate and beetroot brownie served with banana ice cream, crumble and a raspberry and vanilla coulis. Amongst the ingredients used in her main course were McDougalls Plain Flour and McDougalls Thickening Granules. In her dessert, Holly also used McDougalls Thickening Granules as well as McDougalls Brownie Mix and McDougalls Crumble Mix.

Charnock is employed by Sefton Catering Services and is Chef in Charge at Woodlands Primary School in Formby, Liverpool. She has been a school chef for five years and prepares 240 meals a day for 4 – 11 year olds.

The winner of the Second place Award was Raheem Morgan from London for his dishes of Mexican spiced chicken with tomato rice and flatbread with roasted cauliflower and pickled slaw and winter spiced crumble – a berry and apple crumble slice with vanilla sauce. He is employed by Chartwells Lewisham and is based at Coopers Lane Primary School, Grove Park, South East London.

Third place was awarded to Cheryl Humphries from South East England for her dishes of Grandma’s Chicken Dinner – chicken breast with chicken crackling, stuffing, mash, vegetables, beetroot and horseradish sauce and gravy, and All The Fun Of The Fayre – cinnamon doughball with stewed and fresh apples, toffee sauce and honeycomb crumb. Humphries is employed by ISS Education and is based at High Weald Academy, Cranbrook, Kent.

In addition to the kudos of winning the national title, the 2020 champion received a £1k cash prize and the LACA 2020 School Chef of the Year trophy. The winner has also won 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 received cash prizes of £500 and £300 respectively.

The 2020 National Final was a thrilling finale to this year’s competition. Ten regional champions and two additional judges’ wild card finalists battled against each other for the title in what was a fiercely fought contest.

Against the clock and under the scrutiny of the judges, they had a maximum of £1.30 to spend and 90 minutes to prepare, cook and serve an imaginative, school compliant two course menu. This had to meet all of the judging criteria which included the use of a minimum of one different McDougalls product in each course. Contestants could choose ingredients from a wide selection of McDougalls Foodservice products. In addition, the meal had to be suitable for serving en masse in school to 11 year olds.

Chair 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).

Commenting on the outstanding professional standard of all of the 2020 national finalists, LACA National Chair, Stephen Forster said: “My congratulations go to Holly Charnock. Her success in taking the national title is a major achievement given the extraordinary culinary creativity and skills shown by all of this year’s competitors.

LACA School Chef of the Year is a snapshot of the passion and professionalism of today’s school chefs. Working at the frontline of school catering, all have first-hand experience of the challenges of feeding both children and young people. The competition also shows the commitment that is put into producing both high quality, nutritious food every day and with the imaginative ingredients, flavours and themes used for their dishes, school meals that have maximum appeal for discerning children and young people”.

Mark Rigby, Executive Chef, Premier Foods, commented, “Firstly, a massive congratulations to Holly Charnock. Her winning dishes of braised beef tortellini on a bed of soya bean and spinach, a tomato and basil sauce, balsamic reduction and a parmesan crisp and chocolate and beetroot brownie served with banana ice cream, crumble and a raspberry and vanilla coulis represent the high standard of food that our creative school chefs serve to children all around the UK.

'All of the finalists performed so well both in their regional finals and at the national final, that as judges we had a very difficult decision to make. All of the contestants conducted themselves professionally, with creativity and worked efficiently in the kitchen, so much so that there was a lot of back and forth and discussion around who the winner would be.

The LACA School Chef of the Year competition is a great way to highlight and really showcase just how delicious and innovative school meals can be, and as McDougalls we are so proud to be involved and really celebrate the industry. I look forward to seeing Holly go forward and continue to develop her skills and school menu along with having some amazing experiences as the LACA School Chef of the Year 2020. I really hope that her success has inspired other caterers to get involved in the competition next year!”

On winning the national title of LACA School Chef of the Year 2020, Holly Charnock said, “I am so proud to have won the national title. With the standard and skill level amongst this year’s finalists being so high, I felt it was an achievement in itself just getting through to the national final, let alone being able to compete with such a talented group of people.

'All of this just goes to prove what a good job school chef’s do, day in, day out, up and down the country in providing tasty, nutritious meals for millions of children.”

“I am fortunate to be part of a great team within Sefton Catering Services and Woodlands Primary School, all of whom have supported me throughout the competition.

'I hope that this amazing achievement will also serve to reassure parents everywhere about the high quality of school food and how well balanced and tasty the meals we provide are, not only at Woodlands Primary School in Formby but across the length and breadth of the country.

'My employer, my school, my colleagues and the pupils for whom I cook, are all absolutely thrilled and honoured by this success. I am looking forward to an exciting year as the new LACA School Chef of the Year national champion.”