A Dorset school chef is preparing her ingredients for a national cooking competition final.

Tracey Ford, chef for Caterlink at Gillingham Comprehensive School, is preparing to go head-to-head with nine other school chefs for the title of LACA School Chef of the Year 2018.

The final will take place at Stratford upon Avon College today (Thursday, March 8).

The competition has been organised annually for over two decades by LACA (Lead Association for Catering in Education) and is sponsored by Maggi from Nestlé Professional.

Tracey, who is representing the South West, will cook her Italian themed dishes from the last heat.

Should she win, she will receive a £1000 prize and awarded the LACA 2018 School Chef of the year trophy.

She will also receive a commemorative plaque, a work experience trip and an invitation to a calendar of high profile catering industry engagements between 2018-2019.

The second and third place winners will receive a cash prize of £500 and £300 respectively.

For the 2018 competition, preparation, cooking, creativity and presentation skills of school chefs have been put to the test.

Chefs had a maximum spend of £1.30 and one and a half hours to prepare their dishes, with each entrant expected to produce a healthy balanced two-course meal comprising of a main course and dessert that would appeal to eleven year olds in school.

The dishes must demonstrate exceptional culinary expertise, creativity and flair of school chefs.

The Chair of the 2018 National Final Judging Panel is Justin Clarke, food development chef for Maggi.

Mr Clarke is joined by:

* Professional chef guest judge, Wayne Child

* Education catering professional, Jacqui Webb of LACA

* Carol Harwood, education catering consultant

* Beth Hooper, nutrition manager at Nestlé Professional

* 2017 winner Tracey Healy

* An 11 year old boy and girl from a Stratford upon Avon school.

Tim Blowers, LACA national chairman, said: "Every contestant who has taken part this year should be applauded and all should be recognised as inspirational role models for the food and beverage service in schools nationwide.

"My best wishes go to all ten of our 2018 National Finalists."

Charlotte Ponti, savoury food manager at Nestlé Professional said: "It is clear that the ten finalists selected are serious competitors and we wish them all the best for the 2018 national final."