A CARE home chef who works in Daviot has been named chef of the year in a national competition.
Stuart Middleton took top prize in the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) competition last week.
He faced 90 minutes of intense competition before being named award winner, impressing judges with his Traditional Fayre with Flair menu of haggis, neeps and tatties followed by his own Culloden Cranachan.
Judges praised an approach that delivered on taste, skill and presentation and showed clear understanding of the care home clientele he works with daily.
They were impressed by the authenticity of his dishes, his innovative interpretation, the use of regional ingredients, his attention to detail, and his passion.
Mr Middleton works at Meallmore Lodge in Daviot and saw off competition from 11 other finalists in the competition, which took place at Barking and Dagenham College’s Technical Skills Academy. Speaking afterwards he said: “I’m overwhelmed to have won.
“I didn’t expect it as the calibre of the other finalists was unbelievable. I competed last year but I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect, so I over-complicated everything. This year I simplified it.
“I engaged with my residents to create a menu they love and that’s Scottish through and through.
“I definitely enjoyed the final more this year. What an amazing day.”
David Blackwood, regional catering manager at Meallmore, said: “We’re all extremely proud of Stuart’s win. He’s been so close to winning in previous years and it’s great to see his efforts finally being recognised.
“The competition challenges those who work in the care sector to develop new and exciting recipes.
“Not only does this keep their work interesting and allow them to excel in their careers, it also ensures that residents in our homes enjoy a variety of delicious and healthy meals.”
Neel Radia, the NACC’s national chair, congratulated Mr Middleton on his win and said: “Care chefs have to be highly skilled and knowledgeable to cater for the elderly and vulnerable.
“In this very specific area of catering, as well as ensuring meals are nutritionally balanced and beneficial, they must think about catering for individual physical and emotional needs such as special diets, cultural requirements, social preferences, reduced appetites and eating difficulties caused by conditions such as dementia and dysphagia.
“It was a thrilling final and every chef should be very proud of their achievements both in this competition and in their jobs every day.
“They are brilliant ambassadors for the care sector and we salute them all.”