Orkney is renowned for its world-class fresh produce, some of which ends up on the school menu for bairns and staff to enjoy.
School chef Karen Bevan is familiar with cooking up a storm in the kitchen using fresh meat and fish, but she decided to set herself a further challenge – and her hard work is paying off.
For Karen, who works at Stromness Primary School, has been shortlisted for the LACA School Chef of the Year, North East and Scotland Regional finals – an event sponsored by Quorn.
Competitors were tasked with creating a tasty and imaginative main meal, using at least one Quorn product, alongside a 50 per cent fruit-based dessert – both reflecting school food standards. The two courses for four also has to cost no more than £1.40 per head.
Karen, from Stromness, said she is always up for a challenge so has created a menu that not only features the required elements but also some Orcadian produce, such as beremeal, to give it a distinctly local flavour despite being a Taiwanese style main. Dessert continues along the same overseas theme but again using local produce where possible.
While we won’t divulge the detail of the dishes or recipes yet, Karen used lockdown to help develop and trial her dishes on her family.
Karen said: “They were brutally honest, as kids are. My husband enjoyed his role as taster but, as a lover of meat, has requested that the next competition be a Scotch Beef competition with Orkney beef, of course! I have found that Quorn is very versatile and suited to this dish even though the same main course would traditionally be made with pork, or you could substitute with chicken. It’s good to have variety in your diet and a good balance is what we all should be trying to achieve.”
Karen says she was “over the moon” to find out she had been shortlisted for the regional finals on a date and venue to be confirmed.
“At the regional final I will be cooking my menu in the 75-minute time limit and competing with the other shortlisted school chefs. It will be an amazing experience, I'm really excited to see what the other regional finalists have on their menus.”
Orkney Schools Catering Manager, Scott Pring, said: “The dishes Karen has created are strong and technically challenging in the timescale as well as super tasty. I am hopeful she makes the final, however, just to get to the regionals is an achievement in itself.”
The competition has been running for over 20 years, evolving to reflect both school food standards and food trends.
Regional final winners will each receive a £100 cash prize. At the national final, the 2021 national winner will receive a £1,000 cash prize, the 2021 LACA School Chef of the Year trophy, an invitation to a calendar of catering industry events and a work experience trip. The national second and third place winners will receive £500 and £300 respectively.
Notes to editors:
LACA was established in 1990 and is the leading professional body representing 550 catering managers in local authorities, private contractors and individual schools and academies. Its members are providers of school meals services within the primary and secondary schools of England, Wales and Scotland (the Northern Ireland region is currently dormant).
Since its inception, LACA has set out to inform, develop, represent and support its members through a range of initiatives and services. The membership is diverse, and includes public and private sector providers, client officers, dietitians and individual schools. There are also 250 associate members who are jointly responsible for the supply of over £400m per annum of food, drink, equipment and services to the school catering sector.
LACA has continued to lobby Government and has proudly achieved the status of the organisation the Government consults with in developing policies for school food.
With over 300 local authorities, county, district councils and London Boroughs represented in the membership, 80% of the catering service is provided by LACA members. And with around three million lunches being served every day in 27,000 schools, the LACA network is the country’s largest provider of school catering.