A school chef working at a County Durham and Tyne & Wear education trust has won a top accolade at the School Chef of the Year awards.

Richard Hardy, a Chef Manager at Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust (BWCET) has won the North East and Scotland regional final and will represent the region at the national finals in July this year.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the competition is run by the Local Authority Caterers Association and aims to demonstrate the importance of high-quality cooking in school meals. 

(Image: BWCET)

 This "stand-out school catering event" allows school chefs from up and down the country to not only showcase and develop their skills but to also put their school food on the map.  

Participating Chefs had to produce a main course and a dessert and were judged against comprehensive criteria including flavour, creativity, originality, presentation and best cooking practices. The judges were looking for ‘innovative and creative’ ways that ingredients were used in the finished dishes.

Richard impressed the judges with his dish called “East meets West”, blending global cultures and flavours, consisting of a trio of Yorkshire puddings flavoured with Indian spices and stuffed with tandoori chicken, lentil and squash dahl and keema turkey all served with a red onion salad and mint yoghurt. 

(Image: BWCET)

For dessert, Richard prepared a coconut, lime, and mango cheesecake, with a coconut biscuit base which he called a ‘Slice of Paradise’.  The senior culinary advisor and SCOTY head judge thought the flavour across all three curries was exceptional, with an impressive presentation. 

Richard is part of a team of 150 passionate, dedicated and skilled catering professionals at Bishop Wilkinson, serving more than 1.2 million school meals each year.  

Whilst he has worked at the school for many years, Richard has an impressive Michelin star background, previously working in prestigious establishments including The Spa Hotel, Saltburn.  

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Richard said: “I am blown away to have won the regional final of SCOTY, and feel extremely honoured and humbled to represent the North East and Scotland region at the national finals.”

(Image: BWCET)

Nick Hurn OBE, CEO of Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust said: “School meals have come so far over the years and we congratulate Richard for his success in the School Chef of the Year competition, particularly as he was competing against four other school chefs.  

"We are absolutely delighted that his talents and abilities have been independently recognised, and that high-quality school meals continue to be a national priority – something we believe is fundamental for all our pupils, staff and wider school communities to enable all to flourish.”