Favourite Kitchen Aids and LACA SCOTY Top Tips

We talk to past winners of LACA School Chef of the Year about their favourite piece of kitchen equipment and top tips for competition success! 


Chef turning on hob

We know you shouldn’t have favourites but every chef has one piece of kitchen equipment they just couldn’t live without. We find out what tops this list for our LACA School Chef of the Year winners.


Tracy Healy, LACA School Chef of the Year 2017
“For me, it has to be a sharp knife! There is nothing worse than going into your kitchen drawer to find someone has used your knife and not sharpened it. In fact, I’m such a fan of a decent knife that I gave both my children knife sets when they moved out of home!”


Kath Breckon, LACA School Chef of the Year 2016
“A mixer. I simply couldn’t live without one. I once didn’t have one for two weeks and it was a nightmare! We make three kilos of bread with fresh yeast every morning and all our biscuits are also freshly made, so a mixer is an essential!”


Sharon Armstrong, LACA School Chef of the Year 2004
“It has to be my combi oven. I call it ‘the platinum of ovens.’ It is an excellent piece of kit to have in the kitchen and can be everything from fan oven to steamer – even at the same time!”


How to develop a winning menu, how you can stand out from the competition and how to prepare for the live heats – we spoke to past winners to get the inside scoop.


  • Follow the brief – it sounds simple but too many people fall at the first hurdle.
  • Don’t cut corners.
  • If the brief tells you to incorporate certain ingredients, make sure to use as many as you can.
  • At the regional heats and national finals you will have to serve four portions of both your main course and your dessert – make sure to allow for this in your timings.
  • It’s important for you be creative but don’t forget the basics – your menu must meet school food standards, using appropriate portion sizes and creating a balanced meal.
  • Make sure you correctly list all allergens in your dishes.
  • Invite children at your school to taste your menu and give their feedback. At the end of the day, it’s about feeding children and how you would incorporate your dishes into your school. 
  • If you’ve entered the competition before, take advantage of the past feedback you’ve received from the judges and reflect their recommendations in your new menu.
  • Make your dishes colourful and attractive – presentation is a key scoring criteria and the benchmark will be set at restaurant quality.
  • Cater for children’s tastes and requirements – after all, they are your ultimate target audience and the judging panel will include two local children.
  • Practice, practice, practice so you really know your dishes.
  • Think carefully about how your dishes could be translated onto your school menu and produced on a bigger scale and have photographic evidence to support.
  • Relax and enjoy the competition – it can be quite stressful, especially if you haven’t competed before, but remember it’s meant to be fun too!
  • Remember the judges may spot check the weight of your ingredients to ensure they match your recipe and costings.
  • The costings sheets are provided to create an even price nationally, and must be used.
  • Tell a story with your dish; ensuring the main and dessert complement each other.
  • Make sure to use a 9” plate for the main course!


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