Southam cook Tanya is one of the best School Chefs in the country

A Southam school cook was one of just 10 talented chefs to take part in the national School Chef of the Year grand final held at Stratford-upon-Avon College last week.

Tanya Malone, who works for school caterers ‘Educaterers’, was crowned West Midlands School Chef of the Year by LACA (the Lead Association for Catering in Education) in December last year, and faced some strong rivalry from 9 other regional winners at the national competition last week.

The national final was eventually won by Michael Goulston of Peartree Spring Primary School in Hertfordshire, who won the ‘main course’ award in last year’s final, after stiff competition from Tanya from Southam Primary School, who was new to this year’s event, and the other regional winners.

All the finalists had to create and cook a two-course meal designed for an 11 year old school pupil with a budget of just £1.30 and one and a half hours to complete the task.

Educaterers’ school cook Tanya wowed the judges to win the West Midlands regional final with her chilli chicken fritta main served with crushed new potatoes, creamy spinach, coconut sauce, green beans and carrot ribbons, and a dessert of vanilla panna cotta with an orange tuile wave and fruit coulis caramel.

Educaterers, who took over the provision of school meals to 195 schools from Warwickshire County Council in September, believes strongly in developing its catering teams’ skills and has supported Tanya’s involvement in the competition.

Terry Tredget, Director of Catering at Educaterers, said: “We were so excited that Tanya won the West Midlands final. LACA School Chef of the Year is the award that all dedicated school caterers want to win and we are so proud of Tanya for making it through to the national final. Our staff are our most important asset and this shows that our school cooks are some of the best in the country.”

LACA national chair, Tim Blowers, said: “LACA School Chef of the Year is an excellent way of showing why all schools nationwide should be striving for a high quality school meals service. It’s a snapshot of the passion and expertise of today’s school chefs and of the commitment and professionalism they put into producing high quality meals every single day in schools across the country.

“School meals play a pivotal role in laying the foundations for children’s future eating habits and their long term health. Not only do our front line chefs prepare tasty and imaginative dishes to tempt discerning taste buds but also nutritious meals that can make a major contribution towards altering eating habits and establishing balanced diets.

“Offering healthy choices in school and increasing awareness of dietary factors such as sugar intake and its impact on dental health, will not only help to establish healthier lifestyles and reduce obesity levels but also allow children and young people to achieve more both academically and physically”.

Competition sponsors Nestlé Professional savoury food manager Charlotte Ponti added: “Congratulations to all the school chefs who participated this year’s LACA School Chef of the Year and for their dedication to providing our nation’s children with nutritious, tasty meals every day.”

Educaterers launched as a Local Authority Traded Company – the first for Warwickshire County Council – in September. Their catering teams feed 125,000 pupils across the county every week.