A chef at an Aylesbury care home has won the Anchor’s Chef of the Year Award after being announced at the final ceremony at Leeds Community College on Thursday 6 July.
Paul Thomas, a chef at Anchor’s Buckingham Lodge on Culpepper Close, went up against chefs from all 120 care homes run by Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit care home provider.
Entrants in Anchor’s prestigious Chef of the Year Award submitted a three-course recipe (starter, main and dessert). The best entrant from each region was picked by regional managers. These regional nominees then had their submissions voted for by Anchor colleagues across the country to pick the most appetising menus. Chefs were encouraged to use locally sourced ingredients and many even used herbs, fruits and vegetables grown at their own homes! Points were also awarded for menus that reduced food waste, using all parts of their ingredients.
The four finalists then came together to cook their recipes in a cooking competition at Leeds Community College. With all four finalists preparing their menus in a set time then having the results sampled by judges including Anchor’s Managing Director of Care Services Rob Martin, Catering Manager Noel Finnegan, Steve McFall, Managing Director of Efoods, one of Anchor’s suppliers and sponsors alongside Bidfood and Sam Mellish, last year’s Chef of the Year winner.
In the end, though, there could only be one winner. Paul was crowned at the official ceremony later that day. For his menu, Paul served up butternut squash panna cotta with whipped goats’ cheese and chives, dressed lambs’ lettuce with basil oil to start, a pan seared cod loin, crushed baby potatoes and spinach with charred asparagus, chorizo and caper butter for the main course and finished with a dessert of dark chocolate ganache, clotted cream, seasonal pickled fruit and chocolate soil. All the judges agreed Paul’s menu contained the perfect balance of traditional comfort and culinary excellence!
Anchor’s Managing Director of Care Services Rob Martin, who presented Paul with his award, said: “A huge well done to Paul. This year’s competition was fierce, so it says a lot about Paul’s menu and skills that he was able to deliver such an excellent set of dishes against the clock and against so many other great chefs!
“While all our homes provide fantastic quality cooking with high quality ingredients, our most important aim is to ensure our food is made with our residents’ wants and needs in mind, mitigating food waste and educating and inspiring colleagues to support and promote sustainable options. Paul’s delicious dishes very much achieved this aim and I’ve no doubt all the residents of Anchor’s Buckingham Lodge will be celebrating his win too!”
Paul was delighted to win, saying: “I still can’t quite believe it! To make the final four was incredible but I never thought I’d win, I’m really proud to have won! I wanted to make a menu that was healthy but also tasty – and made good use of local and sustainable ingredients.”