Chef Rob Wilkie, 32, at Nelson Lodge care home in St Neots, is celebrating this week after winning a place in a national final of a catering competition.

Rob is one of the seven chefs who will now go through to the Grand Final of Anchor’s Chef of the Year competition on 5 September after his menu proved to be top class.

As part of the competition, Rob organised taster sessions with residents from Nelson Lodge to see which two-course menu would best represent the home. His competition entry also included a meal for residents with dysphagia who have eating difficulties. 

Rob will now take part in a two-hour cook-off at the competition kitchens at University College Birmingham against the six other finalists in front of the judges and well-wishers in the gallery.

He will then submit his dishes to the critical eyes and taste buds of a panel of Anchor judges: National Care Quality Manager Rob Martin, Catering Manager Richard Herne, who specialises in catering for those with dysphagia, and Head of Care Maria Bamford.  

The finalists will be judged on the presentation, flavour and the originality of their two menus, which all had to be prepared from fresh, seasonal ingredients. All the dishes were examples of food the chefs serve to residents in their care homes.

Rob prepared the following for the competition: roasted lamb rump steak with celeriac puree with minted peas, roasted carrots and beetroot covered in a red wine jus, followed by a lemon posset with fresh berries.

Rob, whose first job in the care sector was when he started working at Nelson Lodge when it opened six months ago after a 26-year career in corporate entertainment catering, said he was delighted to have reached the finals, especially as he was competing against equally experienced chefs.

He said: “This challenge is good fun and it benefits the residents living in Anchor’s care homes as it further pushes us to produce better and more creative meals for them when we decide on the week’s menu.

“The residents chose this menu for the competition because they liked the flavours as well as the vibrant colours of the dishes.”

Competition organiser Andy Seal, from Anchor’s service delivery team, said: “We pride ourselves on the high standards of our catering service and Rob has shown that we have every right to be proud. 

“The chefs’ dishes were all delicious and well presented, making the judges’ task very difficult. All the chefs’ work shows just how good care home catering can be when there are passionate, skilled people in the kitchen.

“And it’s a great career – many chefs come to us because of the social hours they work and the big difference they make to older people’s lives.

“Rob is now facing the top chefs in Anchor so the competition will be tough.”

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