National cooking competition final for Leigh Park school chef representing South East in battle for top title

A LEIGH Park school chef is preparing to cook up a storm as he competes in the finals of a national cooking competition.

By Emily Jessica Turner
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 1:52 pm

Park Community School’s Alex Moody, 28, will be battling it out for the title of 2021 School Chef of the Year.

He will go head to head with eight other regional champions and two wild card entries from the 2021 heats at Birmingham Hilton Metropole, NEC on October 12 and 13.

Moving to Havant from Portsmouth five years ago after starting his new role at Park Community School, Alex has been serving school dinners to Leigh Park secondary students for the past six years.

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Alex Moody, a chef at Park Community School

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Alex said: ‘Originally I was an apprentice at a hotel, and I worked there at five years.

‘My wife and I had a baby and then I found a job which more fitted family life.

‘When I came to work here, I found out about all the amazing things that the school does - our school motto is ‘much more than just a school’.

Alex Moody, a chef at Park Community School

‘It’s a really interesting place to work. It’s really rewarding.’

There are around 1,000 pupils at Park Community School, and Alex estimates that he serves lunches to around two-thirds of the student population, including around 400 who receive free school meals.

He added: ‘Working in quite a deprived area, it’s really nice to provide good quality school food.’

The chef hopes to follow in the steps of his colleague Steven Cross, who was named the winner of the 2019 LACA School Chef of the Year competition.

Steven Cross was School Chef of the Year for 2019. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Alex said: ‘My head chef won it about three years ago and I thought it was worth me applying so I could show people the quality of the food being served in schools.

‘It’s brilliant that I won the region finals, I was so happy that I won. I was so nervous going into it. The quality of the other dishes was great.

‘I was really happy that they recognised how good the school food is that we produce.’

Now Alex, representing south-east England, hopes to be named the national winner, which would mean he could take home the national trophy and £1,000 in prize money.

In the final he plans to serve a main course ‘Taste of Japan’, which is chargrilled teriyaki Quorn fillet served with sushi rice and rainbow vegetable rolls, followed by a ‘Matcha Magic’ desert - Japanese green tea Chawanmushi style cream with fresh fruit and shortbread crumbs.

Alex added: ‘I’d be over the moon if I won the final, it really puts the food that we do on a platform - high quality food on a budget.

‘It’s important to expose children to different types of food - we regularly serve Korean, Moroccan, middle eastern food, Japanese when we can - food they may not get at home.

‘There’s a slight bit of education behind that, what you can do with food.’

School Chef of the Year is the education catering sector’s premier culinary skills competition, and is organised by LACA – The School Food People and sponsored by Quorn Professionals.

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