School cooks have been battling it out in the kitchen for one to be crowned School Chef of the Year.

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Three school cooks were whittled down from 300 to compete in a 90-minute cook-off, making four main courses and four desserts, using locally sourced products and making sure they were appealing to the children they cook for.

Catton Grove Primary School on Weston Road in Norwich hosted the cooking which saw Claire Bishop from Loddon High School crowned queen cook, beating off competition from Julie Rudd, from Herman Primary School in Gorleston, and Denise Neave, from Fairhaven Primary School in South Walsham.

Ms Bishop, 35, a trained chef, has been at her school for three years and said it was her first time in the competition. Her salmon fish cakes were declared a winner.

Ms Bishop said: “It’s important to cook fresh to keep the children interested and fit, as well as making them more aware of healthy living.”

The competition is run by Norse Catering which has a group contract with Norfolk County Council to provide school meals for all primary schools in the county.

Judging the competition were representatives from Norse Catering, including Nick Smith, 39, from Thorpe St Andrew.

He said the judges were looking for innovation and he stressed the importance of getting children interested in cooking at an early age.

Judge Craig Neale said Ms Bishop’s winning efforts “tasted and looked beautiful”, but added that the decision was very tight in deciding the winner.

Ms Rudd cooked beef crowns for the main course and emphasised the need for freshness “in a world of convenience foods”.

She said: “If you start the children from a young age, then you will keep them interested in eating well.”

Denise Neave, from South Walsham, cooked spiced chicken for her main course.

She said the children at her school enjoy Mexican food and her motivation to cook fresh comes from doing so at home with her family.

She said she would adapt her recipe to be able to cook it for the pupils.

Each chef won a trophy and a £25 gift voucher – and a place in a regional finals competition next year.

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