Cheryl Humphries, Catering Manager at High Weald Academy in Kent, became School Chef of the Year 2018 in the ISS cooking competition held by the Food Services team.
The tightly contested event was held at Unilever’s Chefmanship Centre on 24th May. Her culinary flair and creative concoctions saw her outstrip thirteen colleagues to claim the top title.
Making her competition debut in style,Humphries plumped for a paprika chicken dish in the morning’s semi-final, accompanied by a celeriac and potato bravas, roasted red pepper puree, spinach puree and Bombay granola. Her dessert was equally as inventive, comprising of fried bananas with salted pistachio popcorn, cinnamon cream and a balsamic glaze.
Securing her place in the last eight, Humphries went on to impress the judges in the final with her quick thinking and obvious talent for identifying winning flavour combinations. The finalists were presented with a box of mystery ingredients, which they then had just an hour to plan, cook, construct and present their creations for the final round of judging.
Humphries chose fish as her main ingredient; her dish of pan fried salmon with crispy skin served with pea and potato mash, an apple and fennel salsa and lime butter tasted delicious and looked the part too.
After much deliberation, the judges concluded that Humphries' creation was most worthy of first place. The team of judges , containing seasoned professionals, marked hard this year; judges included LACA’s School Chef of the Year Michael Goulston, the newly appointed Food Service Director, ISS Education and former CEO of the Children’s Food Trust, Linda Cregan, as well as members of ISS Food Services’ senior leadership team.
ISS UK & Ireland’s CEO, Matthew Brabin and Mark Davies, ISS Food Services’ Managing Director, presented a delighted Humphries with her well-deserved medal and prizes. Her colleague, Cameron Dunbar, who works at The Hayesbrook School, also in Kent, was awarded the very commendable silver medal for finishing in second place. Both High Weald Academy and The Hayesbrook School are part of Brook Learning Trust.
Humphries said, “I am very proud to be ISS’ School Chef of the Year; everyone taking part did so well and it was such an enjoyable day, I still can’t quite believe I won! I had planned and practiced my dishes for the semi-finals but when I got through to the final I wasn’t sure what to expect; I just hoped to see some fish and luckily salmon was included in the mystery selection.
'This has been a great opportunity for me and my colleagues to cook with some new ingredients which we wouldn’t normally use at work, giving us a chance to experiment and show how creative we can be.”
Davies said, “This year’s competition has shown, once again, that there’s bucket loads of talent out there in the school catering industry. The skills and knowledge our chefs have demonstrated are truly impressive and have made me and my team really proud; they should all be very happy with how they have performed.
'It was tough to select a winner but Cheryl is thoroughly deserving of the title, she is a prime example of a brilliant school chef – well done, Cheryl!”
This year the Education Food Development Team at ISS invited competitors to use a wider range of ingredients than in previous years so as to give them a chance to exercise their creativity without limitations. The winning dishes will be reviewed and inspiration taken from them during the next menu development process.
ISS holds its Education Chef of the Year competition each year to celebrate their talented school chefs, who work in various schools across England. The event was hosted by Unilever and took place in their Chefmanship Centre in Leatherhead, Surrey.