AN ISLE of Wight school cook has reached the final of a national chef of the year competition.

Securing her place among some of the country's best school chefs, Wendy Lohse, 40, from Yarmouth, will join 11 other finalists at the LACA School Chef of the Year event after finishing as runner-up at the south east regional final in Hertfordshire.

The final will be held in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Each contestant had 90 minutes to prepare four servings of a main course and a dessert suitable for serving to 11-year-olds in school.

Wendy, who works for Caterlink, is a relief school chef across Isle of Wight primary schools, and served up smoked five-spice pork stir fry – smoked pork loin with fresh egg noodles.

It was followed by banana wonton – fresh wontons filled with banana and dried apricots, served with blackberries, a cardamom chocolate dipping sauce and blackberry coulis.

American Wendy has been cooking for more than 20 years, graduating with honours from the San Francisco Culinary School and previously worked at the Ritz Carlton in the city.

She said: "I moved to the Island three-and-a-half years ago because I had relatives here and wanted to slow down.

"Originally, I worked as a kitchen assistant at Shalfleet School where my five-year-old son Kroy attends.

"But I had an itch to do more and the only position available was as a relief. I'm currently at All Saints, Freshwater, but cooked my dishes for the children at Binstead.

"They gave their feedback and I had to cook the same dishes for the judges in the regional final. There's a lot of pressure because, while you are cooking, they follow you around and talk to you a lot about your preparation and observe your skills.

"I will have to cook the same two dishes again for the final. I can't change any of the ingredients but I can change things like the presentation after the judges' comments.

"It's all very exciting and I would also like to thank the schools for all their support, I'm very proud to be representing the Island."

The cooking competition is the flagship event for school chefs to showcase their professional skills.

It has been organised annually for over two decades by LACA, The School Food People, and is sponsored by McDougalls owned by Premier Foods.