School chef's recipe for success

STEVE DOWNES A carrot and orange pyramid topped with caramel and orange sauce, followed by sliced Mediterranean chicken roulade on potato and spinach loaf with char-grilled courgettes and roasted cherry tomatoes.

STEVE DOWNES

A carrot and orange pyramid topped with caramel and orange sauce, followed by sliced Mediterranean chicken roulade on potato and spinach loaf with chargrilled courgettes and roasted cherry tomatoes.

It sounds like an offering from an a la carte menu or a sample from a high-pressure contest between top London chefs.

But those of you raised on a canteen diet of limp cabbage, fatty meat and stodgy steamed pudding should suspend disbelief for a moment.

For this was the winning entry in the race to be declared the east of England's school chef of the year.

For the princely sum of 80p for all their ingredients, chefs from schools in Luton, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk created their own culinary masterpieces.

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Hertfordshire's entrant Alison Devereux claimed top prize and a place in June's national final.

Norfolk's contender, Melanie Kite, from Hunstanton First School, was not far behind - and was highly commended for her dessert, raspberry seaside special with lavender and lemon shortbread.

Mrs Kite, who has been cook manager at the school for four years, said coming up with the recipes within the 80p limit was "a nightmare". She said: "Obviously the cost of ingredients goes up, and you've got to think of providing good food and think about the cost as well. I love the job. I love cooking for the children and seeing them enjoying the food. "We always ask them to try a little bit of something they don't think they like.

"We've managed to get nine out of 10 children eating broccoli. We simply call it trees to make it more interesting. We call pears 'bombs' and bananas are known as 'telephones'. It works really well."

Mrs Kite said school meals had come a long way since she was raised on a diet of "soggy cabbage".

The competition, organised by the Local Authority Caterers' Association, was judged by a panel including 11-year-olds James Burton and Priscilla Aroean, from Fairway Middle School in Norwich.