VfL’s very own Plant Based Roving Chef, Justina Bajorinaite, has been awarded third place at the prestigious National Association of Care Catering (NACC) Care Chef of the Year 2022 competition.
Throughout June and July 2022, regional heats took place across the NACC regions – Scotland, North, Midlands, Wales, South West and South East – with care chefs showcasing their skills and specialist knowledge in a bid to secure their spot in the final of the prestigious event.
Focusing on the importance of food, nutrition, and positive mealtime experiences as part of quality care, entrants were challenged to create an appealing and delicious two-course menu (main and dessert) appropriate for people in a care setting.
The brief was that the combined food cost for both courses should be no more than £3.00 per head based on three portions and it must be nutritionally balanced.
Justina was awarded Highly Commended Main for her satay tofu served with coconut rice and pickled vegetables, rounded off with a vegan Fraisier cake (French style strawberry cake).
Justina was one of just 11 chefs to qualify for the national final, which unfolded on recently at West Nottingham College. In just 90 minutes, the line-up of talented finalists showcased their culinary skills and specialist knowledge to impress the panel of expert judges, led by Head Judge, Steve Munkley.
The judges were looking for clear nutritional understanding of the foods being used and how they support the needs of their clientele, plus culinary flair through flavours, menu balance, execution, presentation, and hygiene and waste management best practice.
Head judge, Steve Munkley said: “As a newcomer to the NACC Care Chef of the Year competition, I was astounded by the incredibly high standard of cooking from all the chefs. The ten finalists performed really well and exceeded all expectations.
“It was a closely fought final, which is evident in the fact that out of 500 marks, only 40 marks separated first and tenth place.”
Both dishes came in under budget, at just £2.96 per person for a two-course meal. Only half a point separated second and third place.
Justina told us:
“I was delighted to be one of the finalists of NACC Care Chef of the Year 2022. It was a great pleasure to cook in the same kitchen as other talented chefs. Getting to the finals is its own prize itself. Not only is it confidence boosting, but also a great learning experience, which brings inspiration to create even better and tastier meals.
I was amazed when my dish was announced as a winner of the ‘Highly Commended Main’ prize, and even more so when my plant-based menu took third place. I am proud to showcase that the future for great vegan food in care homes is in everyone’s hands – and anyone can futureproof their menus by being inclusive.”
Justina is also the host of the charities free online Lunch Club for the over 65s.
This is open to vegans, vegetarians, and meat reducers and offers attendees the chance to learn new dishes, get tips from an experienced vegan chef, and meet like-minded people from across the UK.
The club takes places through Zoom on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
You can email [email protected] to find out more, or to book your place and get the Zoom link and password. Or call the VfL office on 0161 257 0887.
Since there are only two fully vegetarian care homes in the UK, one of VfL’s major goals is improve the standard of vegan and vegetarian catering in existing homes. We seek to do this through our UK List, which is a geographical listing of organisations and care homes that make a special effort to cater for vegetarians and vegans.
VfL is striving towards a vision where at least 1 in every 6 UK care homes are members of our UK List – and 1 in every 100 will be VfL accredited.