The search to find the LACA School Chef of the Year (SCOTY) 2017 is now under way after around 100 people registered to take part.
The annual competition has been organised by LACA (Lead Association for Catering in Education) for more than two decades and is sponsored by Maggi from Nestlé Professional.
Rules for the 2017 competition have been updated following feedback from previous participants. Organisers have removed the marketing section to allow chefs to focus more on the cooking, while the cost per head has been reduced to £1.30 to reflect a more realistic food cost within education catering, and dishes will be served how they are in schools.
New features also include the introduction of three regional final cook-off events and a new prize package for the national winners.
The first round of judging will take place early next month with successful entrants progressing to live regional heats. Separate heats will be held between November 2016 and January 2017 for the contestants from each of the 10 LACA regions in three locations situated in Northern, Central and Southern England.
Chefs in the running will have one-and-a-half hours to produce a healthy, balanced main course and dessert that would appeal to 11-year-olds.
The chair of the judging panel for all of the regional finals, as well as the 2017 national final, will be Justin Clarke, food development chef for Maggi at Nestlé Professional.
Sally Shadrack, new LACA national chair, said: "What is the secret formula for the LACA School Chef of the Year Competition? School cooks with passion, dedication and oodles of culinary skill mixed together with delicious, nutritious dishes prepared with real flair using fresh ingredients.
"Every year, the competition allows us to demonstrate both the professional skills of today's school chefs and the excellent meals they prepare tirelessly every single day in schools across the country."
She added: "Since the introduction of the new School Food Standards and the Eat Well Guide 2016, more and more children have been reaping the benefits of an improved diet at school. The impact that this has had on the health and vitality of children and young people cannot be underestimated. It underpins why all schools should continue to provide quality, nutritious meals every day.
"Our school chefs and their teams are totally committed to the role they play in educating children and young people about how food and eating better can help them achieve more, both academically and physically. I wish all of our 2017 contestants the very best of luck."
Kath Breckon, who works at Westcliff Primary School in Whitby for North Yorkshire County Caterers, was crowned the SCOTY 2016 winner.
The 2017 national final will be held in Stratford-upon-Avon on 2 March.
Latest video from The Caterer