Published on: 10 November 2023

Chefs at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) have been crowned winners in the national NHS Chef 2023 competition for the third time in just two years.

Darby Hayhurst and Dylan Lucas, who are based at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, were named Chefs of the Year after impressing judges with a winning menu that featured cauliflower prepared in three delectable ways, Moroccan spiced cakes, pan-fried duck and a choc, rock and pop crumble dessert.

They also emerged victorious in another two categories of the competition after scooping the top prize for the best regional plant-based dish and the best national plant-based dish.  

ELHT Head Chef Dylan Lucas said: “This is another proud moment for us - it’s a great competition that allows us to showcase the talents of the chefs within our department. 

“It was a demanding competition especially with having to handle the extreme heat of a kitchen that I have never worked in before.”

The competition was not only about delighting the taste buds but also showcased exceptional culinary skills and the highest quality of healthcare cuisine – all within an NHS budget.

Dylan and Darby beat off stiff competition in knock-out rounds ahead of the prestigious final. Along the journey they took part in 24 different challenges and created 72 dishes.

Executive Director of Integrated Care, Partnerships and Resilience at ELHT, Tony McDonald, said: “We are so proud of Dylan and Darby. They have both done a fantastic job to consistently produce top quality dishes time and time again. 

“The importance of food and nutrition cannot be overstated in the treatment, recovery and rehabilitation of our patients and our chefs are a great credit to the whole catering team.

“Their creativity and skill is incredible – they even managed to produce an inspired low carbon option in recognition of the Trust’s ambition to be net zero!”

The NHS Chef 2023 competition saw talented chefs from NHS Trusts across the country vying to create the most sumptuous and nutritious dishes. The restaurant-quality of food produced during the final round reflected the dedication, expertise, and enthusiasm required to serve tasty and wholesome meals to patients.

Now in its third year, the competition continues to gain prominence as it spotlights the invaluable contributions of chefs in the healthcare system.

This is the second time ELHT have been named winners.