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Orkney’s Karen Bevan is gearing up for UK-wide cooking final

Date: 01 October 2021

Good Luck Karen slideshow

Orkney school chef Karen Bevan is gearing up for a 1,200-mile round trip to compete at the UK-wide School Chef of the Year competition in Birmingham on October 12-13.

Not only does the Stromness Primary School chef face the ever-increasing nerves, but she must also remember to pack all the equipment she needs to compete – almost everything bar the kitchen sink and the oven!

We caught up with Karen, who is representing Scotland at the event, while on duty at the school when she served up her Asian-inspired dishes to a few willing tasters - P7 pupils.

“The nerves have really started kicking in now, but I have been practicing when time allows. It’s very exciting to be representing Orkney and Scotland at the national competition and I continue to be overwhelmed by the support from the school to the wider community.”

Organised by the LACA – The School Food People and sponsored by Quorn Professionals, School Chef of the Year is the education catering sector's premier culinary skills competition and school chefs from all over Britain registered to take part in the 2021 competition.

Karen found out she was through to the final back in June, with an additional 10 school chefs from across the UK also ready to take to the hot plate. She won over the judges with her Taiwanese-style steamed bun with sticky Quorn pieces and crunchy vegetables for her main and for dessert she made a filo pastry spring roll case filled with a light raspberry cream cheese filling. She is giving it an Orcadian twist, using beremeal for example.

Even just getting to the competition requires a huge effort but Karen will be accompanied by The Council’s School Catering Manager, Scott Pring, who will be on hand to help.

He said: “Karen has to take most of the equipment she requires to make the dishes with her – almost everything bar the oven – and this combined with the flights will make for an interesting trip! We are delighted, although not surprised, that Karen has secured her place in the final. We are confident that her two-course entry is very strong, and this has been confirmed by the judges in selecting Karen to move forward. The school bairns that Karen serves up her food to daily have given her their firm seal of approval – stating that her food is ‘the best’ and ‘out of this world’….let’s hope the judges agree at the final!”

Karen will be expected to recreate and present her dishes to judges after 75 minutes and she will take part on the second day.

“We’ll get 75 minutes to cook both dishes, the main course and the pudding. Then the judges will go round, chat to you and mark your work during the whole cooking process. I’ll need to allow a bit of extra time in that 75 minutes to chat.”

Getting in some more practice, Karen made the dishes for P7 pupils at the school last week.

Magnus said: “Karen’s food is really nice and fresh. One of my favourites is the steak pie – it is really nice with veggies and gravy. Her food definitely deserves to be in the competition.”

Joel said: “I really like Karen’s food because her roast tatties are very good and I like the soup as well, especially the tomato soup. My favourite dish has to be sausages and chips because the chips are very nice and soft and the sausages are very tasty. I think Karen has a really good chance of winning.”

Ava said: “The food is amazing – my favourite is the chicken burger. I also love the puddings.”

Alaina said: “I like Karen’s dishes which are always so flavoursome and interesting. Karen also does vegetarian options and gluten-free options which I think is very nice of her. She puts a lot of effort in for our lunch to be very tasty. She deserves to be in this competition, and she has a good chance of winning.”

Alex said: “I like Karen’s food because it always fills me up and puts a smile on my face. She deserves to win the competition.”

Harvey said: “I like Karen’s food because she cooks excellent Orkney meat. My favourite food is Orkney meat and homemade Yorkshire puddings. She deserves to win it.”

Inka said: “I love Karen’s yummy food. She makes fun, interesting and tasty food. She also offers the main option, vegetarian, gluten-free options, fruit, wraps, sandwiches and soup. Karen is also nice and kind. I think she will win the competition.”

Piera said: “I like Karen’s food because it is really tasty and there’s lots of different options like soup, sandwiches, vegetarian, mains and pudding. Karen also does gluten-free food which is really good. I think she deserves to be in the competition and might even have a chance of winning!”

Competitors were tasked with creating a main meal, using at least one Quorn product, alongside a 50 per cent fruit-based dessert that should reflect the school food standards. Entrants had 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare, cook and serve a school compliant two-course menu that is suitable for 11-year-old pupils in primary year 6 or secondary year 7 at a cost of no more than £1.40 per main and dessert portions.

In addition to the kudos of winning the national title, the 2021 champion will receive a £1000 cash prize and the LACA 2021 School Chef of the Year trophy. They will also be awarded a work experience trip and an invitation to a calendar of high-profile catering industry engagements. The national second and third place winners will receive cash prizes of £500 and £300 respectively.

  • Summary:

    Orkney school chef Karen Bevan is gearing up for a 1,200-mile round trip to compete at the UK-wide School Chef of the Year competition in Birmingham on October 12-13.

    Not only does the Stromness Primary School chef face the ever-increasing nerves, but she must also remember to pack all the equipment she needs to compete – almost everything bar the kitchen sink and the oven!

  • Category:
    • Education
    • Events

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