Two hospital chefs from Oswestry are gunning for a prestigious cooking crown – after making it through to the finals of the NHS Chef of the Year 2023.

Gill Owen and Dan Roberts are part of the award-winning catering team at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, which has this month been recognised for serving the best food in the NHS – for the 17th time in the past 18 years.

Now Gill and Dan have further glory in their sights, after entering the NHS Chef of the Year competition for the first time, and immediately qualifying for the final stages.

The duo came through the regional heats, which were held at The Farm Cookery School in Stratford-upon-Avon. They served up a delicious menu of red lentil dhal with flatbreads and lamb macaroni with roasted vegetables and balsamic glaze, followed by a dessert of marshmallow, berry and peach mousse.

Now they will travel to Lainston House Hotel in Winchester at the end of October for the gruelling finals. The week is run in the style of TV contest Masterchef, with teams being eliminated in successive finals rounds until there are just three left standing to cook for the title.

Gill said: “It was a real honour to be asked to represent RJAH along with Dan in this competition and we had a fantastic time at the regional heats.

“We had no idea what to expect really, having never entered before, but it went well, and we’re delighted to have got through. Now we’ll be looking forward to cooking again in the finals week.”

Dan added: “We take real pride in the food that we serve at RJAH, whether that be for patients, staff or visitors. It was great that the judges enjoyed what we served them too, and we can’t wait to get in that kitchen next month and do it all again.”

NHS Chef of the Year was launched in 2021 following recommendations in the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food to support and develop hospital chefs and aims to raise their profile by giving them a platform to showcase their talent, skills and creativity.

The competition is open to two-person teams from NHS hospitals across the country. As well as testing their chef skills, the event is designed to put their catering knowledge and menu engineering to the test.

Each team has been tasked with creating healthy, nutritious meals, on a budget of between £5 and £6.

Stacey Keegan, Chief Executive of RJAH, said: “I am delighted that Gill and Dan have got through to the final stages of this competition, and I am certain that it is thoroughly deserved.

“Our catering team go above and beyond every single day, and that is reflected in the fantastic feedback we get for the food they serve. It is wonderful that this competition is shining a light on their wonderful work, and I am sure that every single member of staff will be rooting for them. I’m sure they can bring that title back to Shropshire!”

Finalists in Full:

  • Stepping Hill Hospital – Nick Roberts & Wun Suen
  • East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (Royal Blackburn Hospital) – Dylan Lucas & Darby Hayhurst
  • Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust – Ryan Corbett & Laila Darlington
  • University Hospital of Leicester NHS Trust – Andy Berry & Joseph Joseph
  • Wye Valley NHS Trust – Les Beare & Josh Banner
  • West Suffolk Hospital – Connor Gutsell & Glen Stone
  • The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital – Gill Owen & Dan Roberts
  • Guys & St Thomas Hospital – Mary Garcia & Martin Canal
  • Solent NHS Trust – James Richardson & David Williams