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South West’s Jennifer Brown takes LACA’s 2024 School Chef of the Year title

5th Jul 2024 - 09:19
South West’s Jennifer Brown takes LACA’s 2024 School Chef of the Year title
LACA has announced that Jennifer Brown has won the School Chef of the Year (SCOTY) competition, which is sponsored by Bisto from Premier Foods.

In her fourth year of entering, Jennifer impressed the judges with her inclusion of fish, ambitious flavours and her creativity in making an exciting dish on the small budget allowed per portion. Not only has she won the title and an invitation to come back as a guest judge next year, but she’s also won £1,000.

School chef at Sarum Academy in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Jennifer won her place in the competition, run by LACA and held in Birmingham, as a wildcard entry, having come a very close runner-up at the South West region heat earlier in the year.

Chefs had just 90 minutes to make two dishes that met strict judges’ briefs around nutrition and cost. For her main dish, she cooked ‘Easy like Monday mornay’ - baked pollock with cheese sauce in a potato and spinach case. For dessert, she prepared a rhubarb and custard meringue tart with raspberry coulis.

Jennifer said: “I love getting fish into the kids’ food but it’s expensive, so you have to be a little more creative around how you get it in. This dish is a perfect way – a small amount, but they still get their Omega threes. I like to present food in a different way – it's all about colours and textures and something like this fish dish adds interest. It’s more fun than the standard fish and chips." 

In addition to competing in the School Chef of the Year competition on Thursday (4 July) she had also competed the previous day in the LACA Grab ‘N’ Go Challenge where chefs are asked to make a savoury break-time snack in just 45 minutes.

This competition was judged by Michelin-starred chef Mark Sargeant – and although she didn’t win, he was impressed with the food the three chefs in this competition were able to produce on the budgets they had.

The SCOTY competition aims to show the high quality of school meals and the contribution they make to the health and wellbeing of children. Second place was awarded to Richard Hardy representing the North East and Scotland region whist third place was won by Paul Hardy representing the North West region.

The 12 finalists, who had competed at regional heats across the country, were judged on the use of Premier Food and Bisto products, working practices in the kitchen, creativity, appearance, taste and flavour. They had just 90 minutes to create four portions of their two-course menu that meet the School Food Standards and Eat Well Guide, with a total food cost of £1.60 per head.

Written by
Edward Waddell