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Freeman Hospital takes Silver best in class at Salon Culinaire Hotelympia, HCA Hot Cookery Competition

On Thursday 8th March, the closing day of Hotelympia 2018, Mark Seales and Jamie Bolam from Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne (pictured right) took home the winner’s trophy, Silver best in class, for the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) Hot Cookery Competition, sponsored by Hobart Cooking Solutions and The Worshipful Company of Cooks. The competition took place in the Live Theatre, as part of Salon Culinaire.


Mark Seales commented on how he felt to win: “It means a lot. We’ve been doing this for four/five years. It was the first time we have ever done the dish. It all came together on the day, we’re really pleased.” Seales was asked if there were any surprises on the day. He answered, “Yes, winning!”

Geoffrey Moyle, Catering Manager at Freeman Hospital said: “I’m feeling very pleased for them. They have been trying for many years and have been close. This is a good start to the year for the hospital and department.”

Six hospital teams made up of two chefs each, battled to take the number one spot and win the coveted Silver best in class award. Each team was required to devise, prepare and cook a two-course hospital meal including a main and dessert for four covers within one hour. The cost of each cover had to be no more than £2.10 per head.

Competitors followed strict hospital guidelines, placing emphasis on reduced saturated fats, sugars and salts, whilst ensuring all dishes were nutritionally balanced and suitable for NHS patients.

Stewart McKenzie, Chair of the HCA comments: “Many congratulations to Freeman Hospital for winning Silver Best in class, this is an amazing achievement. The ability to follow the strict guidelines given, without comprising taste was challenging. All competitors worked extremely hard and were highly praised by the judges. It was a pleasure to watch our members showcase their talent and skill in a competition like this.”

The winning menu comprised of a Balsamic glazed chicken leg and smoked bacon liver bon bon with a spicy puy lentil casserole as the main course, and a white chocolate and berry custard tart for the dessert.


In 2016, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne were one of eight finalists in this competition and were Silver award recipients in 2010 and 2014. The hospital catering department provides meals to over 700 patients a day. They also cater for over a thousand staff members, hospital visitors, as well as the public in its restaurant.

Phil Shelley, HCA immediate past chair and facilities manager at Musgrove Park Hospital, succeeded Chris Lay as competition organiser this year. He comments:

“It was absolutely fantastic to see the high standard of competitors this year. The quality and creativity continues to excel every year.

This event is an excellent opportunity to place hospital catering on the national stage. It perfectly demonstrates to the wider hospitality audience the constraints hospital caterers work under, in terms of both nutritional restrictions, those of salt and fat content, as well financial restraint. Its quite amazing the work that has to be done to produce a two-course menu for just £2.10 per head”

The competition was judged by Lead Judge Harry Lomas, along with judges, Lawrence Keogh, Omero Gallucci and Shari Han.

Lomas praised the competitors by saying:

“It was an absolute delight to be asked to judge the competition. It’s been a privilege to be here this week. I can tell you that the food was pretty much the best food we’ve tasted all week. It was brilliant.

I had the opportunity to speak to the teams. They are all very passionate about what they do. What was good about the food produced was that it was good food, hot, colourful, simply prepared and delivered. It has the flavours, crunch and textures, which is exactly what food should be. Each, and every team delivered that.

All judges had nothing but praise about the teams. The desserts blew me away. They were all very nice and in a competition like that, it’s the desserts that let people down. The blue plates were brilliant. It definitely draws your attention to where the food is.”

The HCA have helped secure a national change of crockery within the NHS. Where appropriate, it has been changed from plain white to bright blue, or another contrasting colour.

Judge Lawrence Keogh was looking for flavours, execution, seasonality, nutritional content and a fun factor. Keogh said the winners dishes had “Originality and interesting flavours,” and said, “I felt the chefs went the extra mile today.”

Judge Shari Han said:

“They have produced plates you would expect to see served at a restaurant despite having specific restrictions regarding grammage of salt etc and looking into dietary requirements.”

For the first time, the winners of the HCA hot cookery competition will receive a two- night stay at the HCA’s annual Learning and Development Forum, taking place 12th – 13th April at Celtic Manor, Wales. The winning team will cook and showcase their dishes in the HCA live theatre to more than 400 hospital caterers and industry dignitary’s including HCA president Lord Hunt.

Full list of competitors and award placement

  • Mark Seales and Jamie Bolam - Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne Winners – Silver best in class
  • Paul O’Brien and Rebecca Romeo - The London Clinic – Silver Award
  • Bobby D’cunha and Bilan Gurang - Frimley Hospital, Frimley – Silver Award
  • Lorraine Shopland and Amanda Hall - Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton – Bronze Award
  • Terry Farmer and Greg Coomer - St Anns Hospital, Poole – Bronze Award
  • Nigel Thompson and Karl Roberts - Northern General Hospital, Sheffield – Bronze Award

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