Mary has the recipe for suc­cess

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

WHEN you think of school din­ners, lumpy cus­tard and over­cooked veg might come to mind.

But chil­dren at a Stock­ton school are treated to tasty meals cooked by the re­cently crowned North­east School Chef of the Year.

Din­ner lady Mary Bar­r­a­clough, from Abbey Hill Acad­emy on Ket­ton Road, cooked up a treat at the re­gional heat of the na­tional com­pe­ti­tion held in Al­trin­cham, Cheshire .

“I am on a high. I am re­ally over the moon,” said Mary. “It was my third time in the com­pe­ti­tion and I just wanted to get through. I have been want­ing to win re­ally, re­ally badly.”

The an­nual com­pe­ti­tion, or­gan­ised by the cater­ers as­so­ci­a­tion LACA, saw Mary tri­umph over fel­low North-east chef Joanne Stod­dart from County Durham. The two con­tes­tants had to cook their cho­sen dishes against the clock and un­der the scru­tiny of a panel of judges.

Mary said: “Ev­ery­body was re­ally ner­vous. You have got to time ev­ery­thing right and you have 15 min­utes to plate up. So re­ally you have got one hour 15 min­utes to do the cook­ing.

“As soon as they say stop, what a re­lief. It is re­ally nerve-rack­ing.”

The chefs had 90 min­utes to pre­pare four por­tions of a main course and a dessert suit­able for 11-year-olds - all with a tight bud­get of £1.30 per meal.

Mary puts her win down to her “spicy basil and tomato chicken” main course.

She said: “The chicken was re­ally tasty.

“You had chilli, gar­lic and gin­ger com­ing through, and I think that is what got it for me.”

Her win­ning chicken dish was fol­lowed by a “co­conut, orange and rasp­berry panna cotta tart”.

The 55-year-old said: “I am no spring chicken any­more. I just re­ally wanted to achieve some­thing.

“I love be­ing in com­pe­ti­tions like that even though it is nerve-rack­ing.

“I am so happy I have won for Stock­ton and the kids at the school.”

She said she re­ceived a hero’s wel­come from col­leagues upon her re­turn to the can­teen: “They are ab­so­lutely over the moon for me be­cause they know how much I wanted this.

“Ev­ery­one is so thrilled for me. My fam­ily and friends have re­ally sup­ported me.”

Mary will now go on to com­pete against nine other re­gional cham­pi­ons in the na­tional fi­nal, to be held on March 2 in Strat­ford-upon-Avon.

“I have to do the same menu again - just bet­ter,” she said. “I want to be bet­ter than I was - get the pas­try more crispy.

“I have just got to do my best.”

School chef Mary Bar­r­a­clough

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