School chef Tom Armstrong has proved a cook above the rest winning the 2022 LACA School Chef of the Year and a £1,000 cash prize.

Tom, who is chef manager at Shelley College in Huddersfield, served up a vegetarian treat to wow the judges.

First-time finalist Tom produced a stunning tandoori Quorn and onion bhaji in the ‘Grab & Go’ class before going on to deliver an Indian spiced Quorn cottage pie, served with crushed Bombay potatoes, butter sauce and greens.

His dessert of coconut milk panna cotta with mango puree and freeze-dried raspberries completed the meal.

LACA is the former Local Authority Caterers Association and the School Chef of the Year competition is now in its 28th year.

It has become something of an institution in school meals catering and drawn national attention to previous winners.

In a new twist for 2022, competitors were tasked with creating a grab & go savoury snack in addition to a delicious and imaginative main meal, using at least one Quorn product in both the new grab & go item and main course and one Bisto product from a list provided in either the snack or the main course, alongside a 50% fruit-based dessert that should reflect school standards, using one Premier Foods product from a list provided.

Along with the cash prize, Tom also won a trophy and an invitation to a calendar of catering industry events including a study tour in Germany.

Tom said: “I have met some amazing people, who now feel like family. I am so excited for the next 12 months.”

Chair of judges Kate Snow said: “It’s been amazing to see the incredible creativity and quality from all the finalists. Now more than ever before we need to inspire children into more sustainable eating habits, both for their health and that of the planet.

“Tom is a very worthy winner. All of his dishes were fantastic. We look forward to working with him to create delicious meat free menu choices for school menus.”

Tom is employed by Mellors Catering Services and Shelley College is part of SHARE Multi Academy Trust.