Lancashire school cook finishes school chef of the year competition with inspiring dishes

A Lancashire school cook has qualified for the national final of the School Chef of the Year competition.

Rose Simpson, 42, who didn’t like school dinners when she was younger, has been cooking healthy and tasty meals at Morecambe Bay Community Primary School for 11 years.

Rose started her working life as a “Saturday girl” in a coffee shop, but hadn’t considered working in a school kitchen until she met a supervisor who inspired her.

She said: “My signature dish, and it’s definitely one the kids enjoy, is a vegan hash wrap.

“Teriyaki also seems to be doing well. To be honest, kids seem to like most of the meals we cook for them.

“If there’s a secret to our success, it’s that we talk to kids about food, especially when we’re introducing a new dish. We also organize tasting sessions so that children can try unusual foods.

“My colleagues and I are very lucky in this school because the children are quite educated in food; they realize that a healthy meal can also be very tasty.

“Even the school shop only sells fruit, and the kids are all behind that.”

Rose will join 11 other head teachers from across the UK in the national final, which takes place on July 6 and 7 at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole and is organized by the Local Authority Catering Association.

During the finale, Rose and the other chefs from the school will have one hour and 45 minutes to prepare and serve a savory take-out snack, as well as a delicious and imaginative main meal and dessert.

Each contestant must use at least one Quorn product in both the new “to-go” item and main course and one Bisto product from a list provided in the snack or main course.

At least half of the dessert must be fruit-based and must reflect school standards, using a Premier Foods product from a list provided.

The winner will receive a cash prize of £1,000, the 2022 LACA School Chef of the Year trophy and an invitation to a calendar of catering industry events.

Second and third place winners will receive £500 and £300 respectively.

Rose added: “It is very important that children eat well and healthy during the day.

“If they’re hungry, they won’t be able to concentrate on their lessons.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to Birmingham to play in the final.

“I know how hard my four colleagues and I have to work to produce meals that children will enjoy, so I have no doubt the level of competition will be very high.”

A 5th grade student explained why she enjoys meals so much: “My favorite meal at school is Cheese Swirl because it’s cheesy and creamy. I love the Apple Crumble dessert because it is very sweet and sour.

Rose also made a student want to learn to cook: “I love the taste of pasta and I want to know the secret recipe to enjoy it even more.

Principal of Morecambe Bay Community Primary School, Sue Taylor, understands how difficult it can be for Rose and her team to prepare healthy and enjoyable meals for the children.

She said: “Every day, delicious aromas escape from the kitchen. I am always impressed that the team creates such healthy and tasty dishes”.

County Councilor Jayne Rear, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, added: “I am both impressed and proud that Rose and her team have made it through to the national final.

“Providing many children with healthy and nutritious school meals that they enjoy is not easy.

“I have no doubt that Rose will look good at the competition and my colleagues and I wish her well.”

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