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School Chef of the Year finalists come together for dedicated day at Premier Foods, helping them prepare for the finals next week

School Chef of the Year finalists come together for dedicated day at Premier Foods, helping them prepare for the finals next week

With just days to go until LACA’s SCOTY 2023 finals, Premier Foods hosted this year’s finalists at its HQ in St Albans, delivering a dedicated day to help the chefs prepare for the live final at the LACA main event.

As part of an action-packed day, the finalists had their recipes checked by Premier Food’s Senior Culinary Advisor and SCOTY Head Judge, Louise Wagstaffe. Each of regional finalists’ recipes will go on to feature in a new Premier Foods recipe book, which will be made available via its website after the competition.

Commenting ahead of the finals, Louise Wagstaffe, said:

“First and foremost, the talent on show in this year’s competition has been outstanding. LACA’s School Chef of the Year is the standout calendar event in the education catering sector, so it’s always a privilege for me, as Head Judge, to be part of such a fantastic competition.

“I’ve been really impressed with the creativity behind each of the final dishes, including how each chef has used Premier Foodservice products in their recipe. I’m excited to see them come to life. I’m wishing the very best of luck to each of the finalists.”

As well as having their recipes checked by Louise, the chefs heard from 2020 and 2021 SCOTY winners, Holly Charnock and Rob Chambers. In an inspiring talk, Holly and Rob shared stories of their own personal experiences in the competition, from how to best deal with the high-pressure environment of the finals, to the overall achievement of winning and how it has propelled their careers.

Holly Charnock said: “Everyone at the finals will want the chefs to do well – so it’s all about going in with confidence. Being at the forefront of school meals, it’s an incredible opportunity for the finalists to really showcase their culinary prowess and how that translates into their school food. I’m really rooting for all of them – they’re a massive inspiration to the industry!”

Recognising the impact that social media has on spotlighting culinary talent, Premier Foods’ social media agency, Digital Blonde, provided the finalists with essential tips on how to effectively utilise their own social media channels to showcase their school food. The chefs were also given a brief media training session by Premier’s PR and communications agency, William Murray, to help them prepare for any media interest they receive before, during and after the finals.

The chefs were then treated to a special lunch, prepared by the Premier chef team.

Commenting on the training day, South East wildcard, James Noakes, said:

“It’s days like this where everyone comes together that really demonstrate what SCOTY is all about. The competition has taught me so much, including how I can push myself and my boundaries. I’m incredibly proud to have reached the finals and look forward, along with the other chefs, to creating amazing school food that in my opinion is better quality than some restaurants.”

After receiving plenty of inspiration, advice and insights to help with their final preparations ahead of LACA’s SCOTY 2023 finals, Premier Food’s training day culminated in a series of individual video interviews, providing each chef with invaluable experience of being in front of the camera and in the spotlight.

Looking ahead at the finals, Yorkshire & Humberside winner, Kirsty McAndrew, said:

“My experience in the competition has taught me many things about myself, but particularly how my cheffing days before moving into education are still relevant. It’s a really good feeling, knowing that my skills and experience as a chef apply to the work I do in schools. The finals are going to be challenging but something I feel prepared for, especially after today’s training day, so bring it on!”

Sarah Robb, foodservice marketing manager, Premier Foods Foodservice, said:

“We are thrilled to support the SCOTY finalists on their exciting journey towards the finals. As this year’s sponsor, Premier Foods is committed to empowering these talented chefs, providing them with invaluable resources to help them shine on the national stage. From offering valuable insights through previous competition winners, to delivering bitesize training sessions on social media and media interviews, we’re proud to be able to contribute to the growth and development of culinary talent in the education catering sector. Good luck to each and every one of the finalists – we can’t wait to see how they get on and of course showcase their recipes in our upcoming recipe book after the finals!”

LACA’s School Chef of the Year 2023 competition is sponsored by Bisto, owned by Premier Foods. The national final will be held at the LACA Main Event on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th July at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole, with the overall winner announced on the evening of Thursday 6th July.

The finalists of this year’s competition include:

  • East Midlands winner, Lorna Nolan from Breadsall CofE VC Primary School (Derbyshire County Council)
  • North West winner, Paul Hardy from Tarporley High School (Midshire Signature Services)
  • North West wildcard, Matthew Bennett from Alsager School (Aramark)
  • South East wildcard, James Noakes from Maidstone Grammar School
  • Wales winner, Joanne Cox from Ysgol y Graig (Chartwells)
  • London winner, Raheem Morgan from Torridon Primary School (Chartwells)
  • South East winner, Mark Kent from Norton Knatchbull (Cucina)
  • Yorkshire & Humberside winner, Kirsty McAndrew from Oakworth Primary School (Midshire Signature Services)
  • East of England winner, Brenden Eades from Felsted School
  • South West winner, Jennifer Brown from Sarum Academy (Academy, part of Atalian Servest)
  • West Midlands winner, Andrew Polymniou from King Edwards VI Aston School (Chartwells)

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