The knives were sharpened and the recipes had been honed as a chef from a Glasgow care home took on the competition to wow the judges in a national care home cook-off.
Anna Chwalek, assistant chef at Care UK’s Wellmeadow Lodge care home in Newton Mearns, represented Scotland and the North of England in a national competition, open to Care UK’s 114 residential and nursing homes, for the title of Chef of the Year.
After winning through the local rounds of the competition, planning menus against a budget, Anna secured her place in the Masterchef-style final, which took place on Thursday 23 October at Unilever’s headquarters in Leatherhead, Surrey.
Anna faced three other regional finalists as she prepared main courses and desserts for the panel of four judges in a two-hour race against the clock.
Anna said: “I was very happy to be nominated, and amazed when I heard I had reached the final. I had a wonderful time. The kitchens were incredible, just like Masterchef and everyone was so nice. I’m not sure how I did but I had a wonderful day.
“At the home, the residents like traditional food but they also enjoy trying new flavours and we cook Italian food as well as Polish, Czech and Greek food and it proves popular.”
Anna was nominated for the award by the home’s head chef John McGee, who said: “Anna is a very dedicated worker. She gives 100 per cent all the time. She will not admit it but she is also a very good baker.
“We hold a lot of special events for residents around themes such as Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day and Anna always creates special cakes or desserts and they are much loved by the residents and colleagues.
“Anna also joins in our regular resident forums to listen the residents’ views of what they would like to see on the menus and she always come up with ideas they love.”
Jon Bicknell, Care UK’s director of hotel services and head judge, said: “As people get older, their appetites may become smaller but that makes it even more important to create tempting food that is packed with key nutrients.
“Judges at the cook-off were looking at presentation, texture, nutritional value and the use of ingredients and, of course, the flavour and I’m delighted to say were treated to an exceptionally high standard.”
The winner of the competition will be announced at the Residential Care Services Gala dinner on Thursday 20 November.