The National Association of Care Catering's (NACC) Care Cook of the Year 2016 competition has opened for entries.
Current title holder Oliver Smith, head chef at Wetherby Manor care home officially launched the search for the UK's best care cook, last week at Food Matters Live.
Entrants have been asked to create a nutritionally-balanced two-course menu within 90 minutes, comprising main and dessert and suitable for service users in a care setting.
The combined food cost for both courses must be no more than £1.50 per head based on four portions, reflecting the restricted budgets care cooks are often faced with.
All entries will be judged by a central panel for consistency and those shortlisted will have the opportunity to show off their culinary skills and knowledge at one of the six regional cook-offs.
The two highest-scoring competitors from each regional heat will go on to cook in the grand final on 8 June 2016 at Barking & Dagenham Technical Skills Academy.
Neel Radia, NACC national chair said: "At long last awareness of the importance of catering in the care sector is growing. Our population is steadily ageing and the demand on the care catering sector is increasing. Catering for the elderly and vulnerable comes with specific challenges, such as the risk of malnutrition and the impact of reduced appetites and eating difficulties caused by conditions such as dementia and dysphagia, so chefs and cooks really must be on top of their game."
"Care caterers across the UK do a phenomenal job ensuring the meals they produce for those in their care provide the correct nutrition and meet all necessary standards and regulations, as well as being appetising and flavoursome. The NACC Care Cook of the Year competition enables us to champion these unsung heroes. It's a fantastic platform to show the industry and the nation the incredible talent and creativity of care caterers and the fantastic job they are doing on a daily basis. Every year the calibre of entries blows us away and I can't wait to see what 2016 produces," he said.
"I urge all our colleagues in the care sector to put forward their talented chefs and cooks and give them, and our sector, the recognition they deserve."
The deadline for entries is 5 February 2016. Visit www.thenacc.co.uk/events/care_cook_year for more information and to download an entry form.