A school chef from Orkney has been chosen to represent Scotland in the UK-wide school chef of the year competition, taking place in Birmingham on October 12-13.
Karen Bevan, a chef at Stromness Primary School, found out she was through to the final back in June, with an additional 10 school chefs from across the UK also ready to take to the hot plate.
Presenting two Asian-inspired dishes for the judges, Karen hopes that her dishes, which have been highly praised by the youngsters at the school, make her top chef on the day.
She says: “The main course dish is a Quorn Tawainese-style steamed bun with sticky Quorn pieces and crunchy vegetables and some onion pickle. It also comes with a salad that has a lemon and coriander dressing.
“It’s a dish I like making at home anyway and I’ve made it several times. I also thought that Quorn just seems to adapt to whatever flavours you put into it and this is something that had quite a lot of flavours.
“For the dessert I’m doing a cream cheese and raspberry spring roll with apple and lemon dipping sauces.
“It’s a filo pastry shell that is made to look like a spring roll, and then the filling inside.
“They’re both dishes I know and felt I could adapt, which I quite liked the idea of.
“I did a test run of the dish on last year’s Primary 7s as they are the target age group for the competition. They seemed to like it and it went down quite well.”
On the day of the final, Karen will be expected to recreate and present her dishes to judges after 75 minutes.
“For the competition final I am the only chef representing Scotland,” adds Karen. “We’re getting to go down to Birmingham in person for the judging. It’s a two-day event, on October 12-13, but each of the 11 chefs only need to go for a slot on one of the days. I’m on the second day to allow time for travel.
“We’ll get 75 minutes to cook both dishes, the main course and the pudding. Then the judges will go round, chat to you and mark your work during the whole cooking process.
“I’ll need to allow a bit of extra time in that 75 minutes to chat.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I’m delighted and really proud to be representing Scotland and Orkney.”
How it began
Being the only chef in Orkney that entered for the competition, Karen was thrown into a regional final back in the summer, for which she was required to present her dishes over video link due to coronavirus restrictions at the time.
“Our catering manager put out the information of the competition to all of the schools for anyone that wanted to put in an application,” Karen continues.
“I had been discussing with him what I thought I would do were I to enter it and I was the only one in Orkney that wanted to put anything forward.
“Had we had a few people wanting to go for it then we would’ve had an Orkney heat but none of the other island school chefs were interested.
“We just put in a paper entry and that got judged per region. Then that got put into a shortlist for the regional final.
“For the regional final I had to do the entry over video link as the judges weren’t allowed to taste any of the dishes. It did mean I was in my own kitchen though, which was quite nice.”
Full of praise
In mid-September Karen held another practice run ahead of the final and made the dishes again for Stromness Primary’s P7s, who had plenty of praise for Karen’s cooking.
Magnus said: “Karen’s food is really nice and fresh. One of my favourites is the steak pie – it is really nice with veggies and gravy. Her food definitely deserves to be in the competition.”
Joel said: “I really like Karen’s food because her roast tatties are very good and I like the soup as well, especially the tomato soup. My favourite dish has to be sausages and chips because the chips are very nice and soft and the sausages are very tasty. I think Karen has a really good chance of winning.”
Ava said: “The food is amazing – my favourite is the chicken burger. I also love the puddings.”
Alaina said: “I like Karen’s dishes which are always so flavoursome and interesting. Karen also does vegetarian options and gluten-free options which I think is very nice of her. She puts a lot of effort in for our lunch to be very tasty. She deserves to be in this competition and she has a good chance of winning.”
Alex said: “I like Karen’s food because it always fills me up and puts a smile on my face. She deserves to win the competition.”
Harvey said: “I like Karen’s food because she cooks excellent Orkney meat. My favourite food is Orkney meat and homemade Yorkshire puddings. She deserves to win it.”
Inka said: “I love Karen’s yummy food. She makes fun, interesting and tasty food. She also offers the main option, vegetarian, gluten-free options, fruit, wraps, sandwiches and soup. Karen is also nice and kind. I think she will win the competition.”
Piera said: “I like Karen’s food because it is really tasty and there’s lots of different options like soup, sandwiches, vegetarian, mains and pudding. Karen also does gluten-free food which is really good. I think she deserves to be in the competition and might even have a chance of winning!”