Michael Goulston has been named LACA School Chef of the Year 2018, the first time in the award's 20-year history that a man has clinched the prize.
The East of England finalist fought off competition from across the country in the national final, which took place at Stratford upon Avon College, Warwickshire.
Contestants were given an hour-and-a-half to prepare a balanced, two-course meal that would appeal to 11-year-olds, while spending a maximum of £1.30.
Goulston served the judges oven baked, Southern crumbed chicken with herb mousseline, gnocchi and vegetables followed by coconut cheesecake with pineapple and strawberry compote and a tuile biscuit.
The winner has been a school chef for five years and two years ago took over the position of mobile cook manager for Hertfordshire Catering Ltd, working with a team to prepare 300-500 meals a day for nursery and primary pupils.
He said: "I am so proud to have won the national title. With the standard and skill level amongst this year's finalists being so high, I felt it was an achievement in itself just getting through to the national final, let alone being able to compete with such a talented group of people. All of this just goes to prove what a good job school chefs do, day in, day out, up and down the country in providing tasty, nutritious meals for millions of children."
Justyna Rutkowska, of Warrington, won the second place award after serving the judges chicken in a rich tomato and tarragon sauce, a tatties and neeps nest and creamed carrots followed by chocolate and coconut brownie with crunchy Cheerio topping and raspberry coulis, while Abdul Mahdoul, of Newcastle upon Tyne, was third.
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