A Stevenage chef has been crowned School Chef of a Year in a prestigious national competition.

The Comet: Michael scooped the award for School Chef of the Year in th eprestigious LACA competition. Picture: LACAMichael scooped the award for School Chef of the Year in th eprestigious LACA competition. Picture: LACA (Image: Archant)

Michael Goulston, who works at Peartree Spring Primary School in the town, won the Lead Association for Catering in Education School Chef of the Year competition after beating nine other regional winners at the national finals on Thursday last week.

He had previously won the regional finals for the East of England.

At all stages of the competition, each contestant has a maximum of £1.30 to spend and just 1½ hours to prepare their dishes, which must be healthy, nutritious and appeal to 11-year-olds in school.

The 43-year-old father served up a mouth-watering offering including chicken stuffed with herb mousseline, baked potato gnocchi in a tomato sauce, broccoli and roasted carrots en papillote, southern crumbed chicken with herb mousseline, gnocchi and vegetables.

The Comet: Michael pictured with his award. Pictures: LACAMichael pictured with his award. Pictures: LACA (Image: Archant)

For desert he made coconut cheesecake, pineapple and strawberry compote, light creamy refreshing cheesecake, pineapple and strawberry compote and a tuille biscuit.

On winning the title, Michael said: “I am so proud to have won the national title. With the standard and skill level amongst this year’s finalists being so high, I felt it was an achievement in itself just getting through to the national final, let alone being able to compete with such a talented group of people. All of this just goes to prove what a good job school chefs do, day in, day out, up and down nation’s children with nutritious, tasty meals every day.

“I am fortunate to be part of a great team, all of whom have supported me throughout the competition. I hope that this amazing achievement will also serve to reassure parents everywhere about the high quality of school food and how well balanced and tasty the meals we provide are.”

Michael has been a school chef for five years. Two years ago, he took over the position of mobile cook manager for Hertfordshire Catering Ltd.

Together with his team, he prepares between 300 to 500 meals each day for nursery and primary school pupils.

Having successfully completed a three-year City & Guilds course at college, Michael went on to gain 29 years experience within the catering industry including running his parents restaurant for six years and then gaining experience within corporate and private school catering.

Previous positions have included nine years as sous chef/head chef at Stevenage-based GlaxoSmithKline and three years as sous chef at St Columbus College in St Albans.