Cameron Dunbar, chef at The Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, Kent was awarded the top prize at the annual ISS Education Chef of the Year (COTY) competition. The competition takes school chefs out of their comfort zone and challenges them to create fine dining calibre dishes.
Dunbar (pictured) impressed the judges in the semi-final with his main dish of spinach and ricotta stuffed chicken breast wrapped in pancetta with sautéed potato, seared fig, pomegranate seeds and a balsamic glaze. His dessert was a mille-feuille with lemon crème patisserie, fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis and mint sugar.
These dishes secured Dunbar in a place in the final, where contestants must use their ingenuity to create an improvised dish from a mystery box of ingredients - a choice of duck, salmon or trout, to be accompanied by the contestant’s choice of vegetables.
Dunbar used the hour provided to prepare pan-fried duck breast on a bed of sweet potato and beetroot, garnished with radish, broad beans, fresh redcurrants with a redcurrant jus.
The quality of all the entries made it a tough decision for the judges, who commented that there were few points in it, but Dunbar came out top for his bold flavours and excellent presentation skills.
The judges included members of the ISS Food Services senior team, along with special guest judges Cheryl Humphries, Chef of the Year for 2018 and Kitchen Manager at High Weald Academy in Kent, and Jeanette Orrey MBE, children’s food campaigner and co-founder of Food for Life.
ISS UK & Ireland’s CEO, Matthew Brabin, Steve Kemp, ISS Food Services Sector Director – Schools and Jeanette presented a stunned Cameron with his hard-won medal and prizes.
Dunbar commented, “When I arrived on the day, I was confident but also felt a level of expectation as I had finished second place the year before. As soon as it was time to begin cooking the butterflies immediately turned to adrenaline.
'After the Judges announced I had made it to the final, the butterflies returned as I knew this meant a mystery box was to follow. The next hour was a blur, having to design, prep and cook two plates.
'Before the results were announced, I felt good and knew I had cooked well but still couldn’t quite believe it when they announced I had won.
'A few days have now passed, the reality has sunk in and I’m still ecstatic that I won Chef of the Year. Winning has improved my confidence and has motivated me to push myself further with ISS and see what the future holds.”
Jeanette Orrey stated “It has been fantastic to take part as a guest judge for this competition that celebrates school chefs. There is a lot of talent here and I was very impressed with the quality of the entries, and it shows that the chefs we have in schools have the skills to cook good food for the children they serve. Congratulations to all the contestants.”
ISS hold their Chef of the Year competition as an annual celebration of the talented individuals working in their school kitchens. It is held at Unilever’s Chefmanship Centre in Leatherhead, Surrey. Ingredients are provided by ISS’ suppliers who sponsor the event.