JELLY crystal desert will sound like a delight to many children but tell them they are to have parsnip and you may struggle to get them to the table.

However an award-winning Denbigh school chef got her pupils to enjoy both her dishes - she just didn’t say exactly what was in them.

Jane Jones, cook at Ysgol Twm O’r Nant, won the Denbighshire round of the Local Authority Catering Association School Chef of the Year and a place in the Wales regional final, which took place in Newtown on Thursday, January 16.  

The aim of the competition was to serve a main course and desert that are suitable for a primary school canteen, according to the Nutritional Standards and Requirements for Wales and a maximum spend of £1.30 per head.

Mrs Jones, 50, who won the prestigious school cooking competition last year, said she wanted to use “normal ingredients but in a different way” and the Denbigh pupils became her test dummies in the lead up to the final.

She decided on ‘cheeky chicken wraps’ made of rainbow veg, a fruity soy dip and micro herbs with a side of beetroot crisps, followed by a ‘jelly jumble’ desert

“They really liked the wraps but I didn’t tell them it had parsnips or sweet potato in!”, said Mrs Jones.

“The desert was a citrus meringue, lemon curd and cream, forest fruit coulis and orange biscuit crumb. I use jelly crystals because icing sugar isn’t allowed under food regulation in Wales.”

Mrs Jones was also able to win over the panel of judges at Newtown College, Powys as they chose her as the winner for a second year running over chefs from Anglesey, Penarth and Barry. 

Jane’s next challenge will be in the final will be held in Stratford Upon Avon in early March. 

At the national final, the 2020 national winner will received a £1000 cash prize, the 2020 LACA School Chef of the Year trophy, an invitation to a calendar of catering industry events and a work experience trip. 

The national second and third place winners will receive £500 and £300 respectively

“The judges said the lemon curd was lovely and they were interested in the meringue with the crystals,” Mrs Jones said.

“The competition was chilled but I did have a few issues because I was cooking in someone else’s kitchen.

“Having done it before it was a bit like being between the devil and the deep blue sea because the last half-an-hour became quite stressful and it cut down to the wire.”

Mrs Jones, who lives in Ruthin, said she finds cooking for classes of school pupils to be “no different to cooking a Sunday Roast at home”.

“It takes longer and there are more elements, but saying that you haven’t got a hot plate in your home kitchen!”

Talking about the UK final in Stratford Upon Avon in March she added: "I’ll just take it in my stride,” she said.

“It is what I do every day, so I’ll treat it as just another day.”

Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts, Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet lead member for education and children’s services, said: “Yet again this year, Jane has made us proud, winning both the county and regional heats and the pressure’s on to finding another mouth-watering menu, but Jane is ready for the challenge.

“Jane is a great ambassador for Denbighshire with her personality, creativity and enthusiasm reflected in her mouth-watering menu. It’s a great way of raising the profile of the talent we have in our school catering service and we wish her all the best in the nationals.”