Chefs from eleven of our nurseries across the country battled it out this week as part of our ABC (Allergy Friendly, Busy Bees Friendly, Child Friendly) Chef Competition, held at The Harborne Food School in the West Midlands on Tuesday 26th April.
We tasked our chefs with creating an allergen-free dish of their choice and a selection of impressive recipes were on offer using flavours from all quarters of the globe.
The winning dish was conjured up by Stuart White from our Edinburgh Park nursery, who produced a stunning eggless meringue with strawberry mousse and fruit. We are delighted to announce that Stuart’s winning dessert will be introduced to our menus in all of our nurseries across the country. Stuart has also won £500 worth of new equipment for Edinburgh Park nursery kitchen as well a selection of vouchers.
Our ABC competition, which took place as part of Allergy Awareness Week (25th April – 1st May), challenged our chefs to produce culinary masterpieces free from all of the 14 named allergens. Aside from crafting some exciting new dishes, we wanted to use the competition to raise greater awareness of the different types of allergies and food intolerances.
Judges on the day were given the difficult task of choosing a winner as the eleven finalists at this year’s competition certainly raised the bar. Marg Randles, OBE and managing director of Busy Bees nurseries, who was part of the judging panel and announced the winner, said:
“This year’s finalists are just a small number of amazing chefs that we have in Busy Bees nurseries across the country. The chefs showed some terrific imagination and initiative with the dishes they produced and the skills of our chefs play a very important part in the lives of our children.
“Providing healthy food and catering to different dietary requirements is a day-to-day passion for us – it’s fantastic to see that all of our children are in great hands.”
Stuart White, head chef at Busy Bees Edinburgh Park and winner of the competition has been in the catering business for over 14 years and with Busy Bees for just over two years. He said:
“I feel honoured to have been crowned the winner – so many of the chefs did an amazing job and it was a superb day for all. I’ve never entered a cookery competition before and will certainly be having a go next year too!
“The inspiration for my dish came from my background in catering for hospitality events such as weddings – I once catered for an entire vegan wedding. On a day-to-day basis, in the nursery we have to ensure that every child is provided with healthy, suitable and tasty dishes. I regularly cook gluten-free and dairy-free cakes as well as egg-free scones. It’s all about experimenting and making sure that children with sensitive allergies do not have to settle for an allergen-free dish that sacrifices on taste.”
During this year’s competition, all eleven finalists have raised the standards using their expertise and creativity to come up with a selection of flavour-filled main courses and mouth-watering desserts, from chicken and vegetable meatballs to chocolate and avocado pudding, that can be enjoyed by everyone in nursery.
David Persaud, Catering Mark Development Manager for the Midlands from the Soil Association Certification, who was on the judging panel at the final, said:
“The standards at this year’s competition were very high – there was some stiff competition. I’ve been really impressed with the standards of dishes produced, we could see that lots of thought had been put into the entries.
"Well done to Busy Bees for running such a fantastic competition – it is one that drives creativity and innovation and I’m proud to be part of it. The chefs used lots of complex flavours to produce some very simple and delicious foods – you wouldn’t be disappointed in some of the dishes on show were served to you in a good quality restaurant!”
Victoria Brook, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of new children’s TV channel E-Bop.tv, also judged the dishes at today’s final. She said:
“I’m in awe of the passion and energy displayed by the chefs for producing good quality food. The desire to create dishes for children with complex needs, limited resources and to such a high standard is just phenomenal.
"As a parent who put their child through a Busy Bees nursery, it’s overwhelming to see that the chefs take such pride and pleasure in what they do. The final was such a brilliant day and I’d even love to see some of these dishes on E-bop.tv’s ‘don’t like it, won’t eat it’ feature. If you told your child that their meringue was made out of bean juice then I’m sure they wouldn’t go near it but what the winning chef managed to create today (with bean juice, I might add) was so tasty!”
Matthew Clarke, our Senior Catering Manager, explained the importance of this year’s theme:
“I was most impressed by the variety of dishes produced in the competition – the creativity and passion of the chefs has been second-to-none.
“Parents often worry about how their child with an allergy will be cared for outside the home by other people. At Busy Bees, through allergy awareness training of staff and the confidence parents get from talking through their child’s dietary requirements with the nursery chef, the anxiety and concerns can be reduced. The ABC Competition is an excellent way for our Busy Bees chefs to showcase their skills and knowledge whilst producing wholesome nutritious food.”
You can find out more information about our menus here and about our short training catering courses here. Look out for the allergy-friendly dishes created at our National Chef Competition on our website, Twitter and Facebook soon!