A chef at a Southampton care home has won the Anchor’s Chef of the Year Award with a ceremony at her care home on Wednesday 13 October.
Verity Sims, a chef manager at Anchor’s Dawson Lodge care home on Botley Road, went up against chefs from all 114 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 (soup, 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 three most appetising menus. The three finalists were selected on the inventiveness of their cooking and the inclusion of residents in the creation of their menus.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing last year’s final to be a virtual event, there was much delight with the return to in-person judging this year. The judges were lucky enough to sample the delicacies on offer from each finalist, visiting each of the finalist’s care homes to make their decision.
In the end, though, there could only be one winner. Verity was crowned the Anchor’s Chef of the Year at a ceremony at Anchor’s Dawson Lodge. The judges agreed that her menu of classic home dishes of Cream of Tomato Soup, Chicken and Ham Pie and Sticky Toffee Pudding combined the perfect balance of traditional comfort and culinary excellence.
Anchor’s Chief Executive Jane Ashcroft CBE, who presented Verity with her award, said: “Huge congratulations to Verity. This year’s competition was especially fierce, and it is a testament to the excellent quality of her menu that it took first prize against so many other great chefs. Her Chicken and Ham Pie was superb!
“At Anchor, we pride ourselves on colleagues’ dedication. Good quality home cooked food is central to ensuring residents have a really positive experience in all Anchor care homes – and I’m sure residents at Dawson Lodge will be celebrating along with Verity.”
Verity was delighted with her win, saying: “I still can’t quite believe it! To make the final three was incredible but I never thought I’d win! Our residents always tell me how much they enjoyed traditional dishes from their childhood. So, when I entered the Chef of the Year competition, I decided to use them as my inspiration.
“I really wanted to create a menu that our residents would love. They were really helpful and told me some wonderful stories about their favourite dishes, so maybe they’re the ones who should be getting the credit!”
Noel Finnegan, Anchor’s National Catering & Hospitality Manager, said: “It’s been an incredible year for the Anchor Chef of the Year competition. Thank you to all the nominees this year for their dedication and hard work. It was incredibly difficult to get to three finalists and then rank the finalists themselves!
“It’s wonderful to be able to hold the judging in person again. Although we did a fantastic job creating the virtual event last year, there is honestly no substitute to judging a catering competition by taste!”