It was ready, steady cook this week for eight school chefs competing to be crowned the best in Bolton.
Contestants from across Bolton battled against each other in the cook-off final held in Westhoughton High School.
Each cook had just one hour to cook a starter and a dessert for a school pupil using fresh ingredients. Dishes had to cost no more than £2 a head and the details of each dish were kept a closely guarded secret until judging day.
The meals were judged on a number of criteria including flavour, presentation, nutritional balance and creativity.
And the winner was Julie Edwards, a mobile manager, currently working at Ladybridge High School.
She rustled up a main course of ham, cheese and tomato roll, with chocolate and coconut balls for dessert.
She said: “I feel brilliant, I can’t believe I’ve actually won as the competition standard is so high. I entered last year and I didn’t even get close so this is just amazing.
“I really enjoy cooking and I’m a healthy eater at home. School meals both taste great, use fresh ingredients and they’re healthy.”
Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Environmental Services Councillor Akhtar Zaman said: “The standard was exceptionally high and my congratulations to the winner and everyone who got to the final. This was a chance for school chefs to show just how talented they are at cooking up nutritional, high quality and tasty meals on a fixed budget.
“Our school dinners have been voted the best in the country which is a real testament to our chefs and latest figures show that we’re well above the national average for meal uptake and more pupils are tucking into a healthy, quality school meal.”
Figures announced last week reveal that 53.3 per cent of primary school children are opting for a school meal, compared to the national average of 41.4 per cent.
In secondary schools, 57.8 per cent are choosing school dinners, a figure far greater than the national average of 35 per cent.
Bolton Council’s school meal catering service was highly commended in the category of Best Improved Performance in Education Catering at the Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE) awards last December.