School chefs gets their teeth in to cookery contest

Alison Jones, of Toll Bar Primary School, in the School Chef of the Year competition.
Alison Jones, of Toll Bar Primary School, in the School Chef of the Year competition.

Two school chefs from South Yorkshire had a Master Chef-style experience when they took part in a cook-off in a bid to win the School Chef of the Year title.

Alison Jones, head chef at Toll Bar Primary School in Doncaster and Jenni Melrose, head chef at Arbourthorne Primary School in Sheffield took part in the regional heat of the National School Chef of the Year competition.

Both hoped to be crowned Yorkshire and Humber’s best school cook but after a 90 minute competition the title was claimed by competitor Ashley Oliver, from Scarborough.

But the South Yorkshire chefs didn’t walk away empty handed.

For the second year running, Alison won the prestigious ‘highly commended dessert’ award, an accolade that is only handed out for superior dishes.

She said: “It feels really good to win the award and get some recognition for what you have done. I won highly commended dessert last year, so I’ll add this to it.

“It was both exciting and nerve racking. The 90 minutes went really fast, but it was brilliant. I’ve really enjoyed it. It was really lovely to meet the other chefs too.”

Jenni said: “This is the first time I’ve competed and I’m proud of what I have done.

“I would do it again if I had the opportunity.

“Plating up was the best part of the experience for me, that’s when you see it all come together.

“It was really exhilarating, but also nerve racking.”

Competitors were asked to produce a main course and a dessert which would appeal to primary school children and meet nutritional requirements – for no more than £1.60 per head.

Alison, who has been head chef at Toll Bar for 11 years, cooked lemon and herb chicken fillets wrapped in courgette tracks, with ratatouille stack and couscous funnel for her main.

It was followed by crunchy chocolate shortbread with fruit and meringue for dessert.

Jenni who worked at Arbourthorne Community Primary School for three years, cooked Yorkshire fishcakes with crushed minted garden peas, homemade tomato sauce with a Yorkshire twist served with a duo potato stack for her first course.

For dessert, she served sweet Yorkshire pudding stuffed with chopped cherries with berry coulis and cherry and pineapple fluff. Professional chef Chris Waddington judged the contest, along with Doncaster Bentley High Street Primary School pupils Katy Omar and Cole Parkes, an education catering expert and a dietitian.

The cook-off took place at Doncaster College yesterday.

The competition has been organised annually for more than two decades by LACA – Lead Association for Catering in Education – and is sponsored by MAGGI from Nestlé Professional.

It aims to show parents the high quality of school meals.