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LACA School Chef of the Year 2019 set for regional finals

Following the first round of judging of the LACA School Chef of the Year 2019 Competition, around fifty 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 seven locations across Britain between the end of November 2018 – January 2019, The 2019 National Final will take place, once again, in Stratford upon Avon on 7 March. The 2018 national champion and reigning LACA School Chef of the Year is Hertfordshire school chef, Michael Goulston.

The LACA School Chef of the Year Competition has been the flagship event for school chefs to showcase their professional skills for more than twenty years. It is organised by the Lead Association for CAtering in Education (LACA) and is sponsored by McDougalls, owned by Premier Foods.

Despite the significant improvements that have taken place within school catering across Britain over the last decade, the LACA School Chef of the Year Competition is just as important now as ever before. Its key aims are to show to parents the high quality of school meals today and the contribution they not only make to the health and wellbeing of their children but also their physical and educational attainment.

Contestants’ menus are expected to reflect the school standards to which every school in the country is asked to adhere. These form the basis of the menus that provide every 5 – 7 year old in England with a school compliant school lunch through the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals Programme.

School Chef of the Year entrants 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 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. In addition, the meal must also be suitable for serving en masse in school to 11 year olds.

The dishes that feature on the 2019 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 course and dessert dishes are destined to seriously challenge the taste buds of the judges at the Regional Finals.

Head of the Judging Panel at all of the Regional Finals, as well as the 2019 National Final, will be Mark Rigby, Executive Chef at Premier Foods (pictured). Joining him on the panel at each Regional Final location will be an independent catering industry professional guest chef and an education catering expert (Sharon Armstrong, LACA).

LACA National Chair, Michael Hales said, “There is no secret formula to participating in the LACA School Chef of the Year Competition. It just requires school cooks 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 single 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 every day.

'Our school chefs and their 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. I wish all of our 2019 contestants the very best of luck”.

Mark Rigby, Executive Chef at Premier Foods, commented, “After much deliberation between the judges and looking through the entries at the preliminary judging stage, we are excited to declare our regional finalists.

'It was such a hard decision as the standard of entry was so high – all entries demonstrated plenty of flair and creativity. As our first year sponsoring the competition, we were so impressed, taking into account the strict time limit, the entries are a great representation of school catering up and down the country.

'We just want to say a huge thank you to all those who took the time to enter and support the initiative, it’s so key children are served a delicious, nutritious and cost effective meal during their time in education. To all those who are through to the regional finals, we wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing your dishes truly come to life.”