Hospital chefs rocket into finals of national cooking competition

Two hospital cooks from Solent NHS Trust have stormed their way into the finals of NHS Chef 2023.

Jim Richardson and Naz Ahmed romped to victory in their regional heat at the University of West London in Ealing, London.

The pair were declared winners after the latest round of the national competition, in which Jim came third last year with colleague Joe Hennigan.

Jim and Naz cooked up a storm, together preparing and presenting a three-course meal which judges said flowed beautifully from one course to another, while the dessert was hailed “superb”.

Their winning menu included a spiced chickpea and spinach soup for the plant based starter, venison biryani for main course and a dessert of caramelised plums with cardamon-infused Gulab jamun and clotted cream.

Iain Robertson, Catering Operations Manager at Solent NHS Trust, said: “I am so proud of Jim and Naz; they absolutely smashed it.

“It was the hottest day of the year, and the pressure was on after NHS Chef 2022, but they kept focused and produced a superb meal which received nothing but compliments.”

Practising for the competition had proved something of a challenge for the pair as Jim is based in the kitchens at St Mary’s Community Health Campus while Naz works at the Western Community Hospital in Southampton.

After winning their heat, Jim and Naz will next compete in the gruelling six-day final to be held at Lainston House Hotel in Winchester at the end of October.

Mark Young, Deputy Director of Estates and Facilities, said: “Everyone loved following the progress of Jim and Joe last year and will now be rooting for Jim and Naz.

“We already know our catering team is amazing but events like this really give them a chance to showcase their talents to a wider audience.”

The NHS Chef competition was launched in 2021 to support and develop hospital chefs, to make them feel part of the wider catering community, to inspire and motivate them and to celebrate their successes and recognise excellence.

As well as testing the two-person teams’ chef skills, the event is designed to put their catering knowledge and menu engineering to the test.

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