HCA hospital caterers deliver at annual competition

The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) has announced the winners of its Wessex Branch Salon Culinaire. The annual event took place in the department of catering studies at Bournemouth and Poole College, on the south coast.

Craig Smith, national chairman of the HCA, commented, “The Wessex Branch Salon Culinaire is an excellent platform for students and healthcare professionals alike to compete. The competition goes from strength to strength and this year I’m delighted to say we have had a record number of competitors demonstrating their diverse talent and skills.”

The day was organised and led by HCA Wessex Branch chairman Andy Whittingham, accompanied by the recent winner of the HCA caterer of the year award, Iain Robertson from St Ann’s Hospital.

Whittingham said, “As Wessex branch chairman, I am extremely proud of our annual catering competition. All competitors displayed great talent and skills, including my catering team from Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospital. They all really enjoyed the thrill of entering such a highly participated competition showcasing culinary excellence within hospital catering.”

He continued, “The HCA has been hosting this prestigious event for many years. It is well supported by Bournemouth and Poole College and with Mark Hayman HCA Vice president in attendance. Every year Mark contributes his expertise as a competition judge and assists with the prize giving. Mark is a great example to the young caterers and proves what they can achieve in their career with consistent hard work and commitment.”

Together, the HCA Wessex branch worked with the department of catering studies at Bournemouth and Poole College to bring together the event. The HCA Wessex Branch has been hosting the event since the 1950s. Historically, they have hosted it in different locations across Wessex but have been at the Bournemouth and Poole College for more than three years now.

Robertson said, “This year’s event was a great success which saw the number of participants from the healthcare sector increase significantly from last year with well over 80 entries in all categories. Not only did we see an increase in the number of participants but everyone I spoke with on the day agreed that the standard of the entries continues to improve year on year.”

He added, “The competition gives hospital caterers the opportunity to showcase their talent not only to colleagues from other hospitals but also to the next generation of chefs passing through Bournemouth and Poole College. Events like this really do raise the profile of hospital food and it would not be possible without the support and networking opportunities which the Hospital Caterers Association offers. Which is why I believe becoming a member of the organisation is essential for anyone who works within our sector.”

The awards ceremony was led by Chris Lay, past competition organiser for the biennial HCA hot cookery competition. This year’s awards were presented to winners by HCA vice president and judge at the HCA Wessex Branch Salon Culinaire, Mark Hayman. During this year’s CSC Awards, Hayman was honoured with the coveted public sector lifetime achievement award. Awards were presented for merit, third runner-up, second runner-up and winner.

Mark Hayman, HCA Vice President, commented, “I had an enjoyable day. The standard of the food was very good. Some of the delicate dishes were great. The quality of the food presented to the judges improves every year. Thank you to all who organised and took part, and congratulations to all of the winners.”

A record number of more than 80 competitors took part in the prestigious event. There were 10 static competitions whereby dishes were displayed and judged, and one live hot cookery competition ‘Ready Steady Chef’.

The static classes included vegetarian starter, iced and decorated celebration cake, decorated fruit tart, patient’s afternoon tea tray, selections of biscuits, selection of petit fours, and plated main course dishes produced with either fish, poultry, meat or vegan. All competitors were asked to adhere to the specific criteria accompanying each class and only standard NHS plates were used to display food on.

During the live class ‘Ready Steady Chef’, four hospital teams were made up of two chefs each. Each team battled it out to take the number one spot and showcased the wealth of talent and skills currently residing in healthcare establishments. The hospitals competing included Freeman Hospital, St Ann’s Hospital, Salisbury District Hospital and Frimley Park Hospital.

Mark Seales and Jamie Bolam from Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne took home the winner’s trophy for the live hot cookery competition ‘Ready Steady Chef’. Each team were judged on the ability to devise, prepare and present a two-course meal with appropriate accompaniments for four covers within one hour.

The winning menu comprised of stuffed chicken breast, served with Puy lentil and cabbage for the main course dish, and two carrot and beetroot cakes with caramel sauce. One was served with beetroot and chocolate ice cream. The other was served with white chocolate sauce.

In 2018, the team from Freeman Hospital in Newcastle won Silver best in class, for the HCA Hot Cookery Competition at Hotelympia in London. They expressed how they felt about winning the live hot competition at this year’s HCA Wessex Branch Salon Culinaire. They said; “We feel good and very surprised. We are now looking forward to defending our title in next year’s Hotelympia in London.”

With the on-going challenges year-on-year to produce and successfully deliver new dishes, chefs were urged to present unique recipes. Competitors produced meals suitable for generic NHS patients with an emphasis on reduced saturated fats, sugars and salts, and nutritionally balanced.

For the full list of winners go to Caterlyst's Awards Winners in the right hand column on the News homepage.