Our Under 500 Calories Competition – The Results!

On a beautiful June day, seventeen chefs from across the CH&Co business took to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, to spend a day at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Here they recreated their dishes, hoping to impress a formidable panel of judges, including Mark Peregrine, Director of the School; CH&Co Head of Craft Skills Fred Stanton; independent nutritionist, and great friend to Charlton House, Amanda Ursell; and me.

Customer health is of the utmost importance to us at Charlton House, and we are always looking for innovative ways to make the meals we serve healthier, without any compromise to taste or visual appeal.

Which is just what we were looking for as we considered the merits of each of our shortlisted dishes – not only did they have to be the best of the best, but they also had to weigh in at under 500 calories per portion.

A “Never-to-be-Forgotten” Day

Our nominees were thrilled to have made the cut and couldn’t wait to get to Le Manoir, where we would be treated to a cookery demonstration and then given free rein in the cookery school’s kitchen. The iconic venue certainly lived up to expectations…

“The whole day was a great experience – who could ever turn down the opportunity to cook at the home of cooking…La Manoir?” – Rob Davis, Ampersand

It was an inspiring setting and such a motivating day – for entrants and judges alike. We were given such a warm welcome, and the enthusiasm throughout the day was electric.

“It was a beautiful, magical, mystical and never-to-be-forgotten experience. Great people, the food was fabulous and the garden? Out of this world.” – Dusan Smolko, Chester Boyd

The Entrants and Their Dishes

We were delighted to see entrants from the whole CH&Co family make the shortlist. Joining Charlton House’s Ciaran Lynch, Mike Roberts, Roxy McDonagh, Dan Aslett, Chris Conlon, Oliver Peters, Sonny Batch and Joanne Copeland were Micheal Worters, Matt Pritchard, Dan Edwards, and Sushil More from Lusso; Matthew McLoughlin, Rob Davis, and Michael Kozielski from Ampersand; Lucas Laba from Apostrophe; and Chester Boyd’s Dusan Smolko.

We were also very pleased with the variety of dishes – we had pork, chicken, lamb, beef, turkey and fish dishes, along with a vegetarian option and a couple of puddings.

While there was, naturally, a competitive edge to the day, there was also a great sense of community and shared pride. Everyone was excited to see each other’s dishes, to share ideas and to offer support:

[The best part of the day was] all of CH&CO catering coming together and sharing their knowledge” – Sushil Moore, Lusso

The Star of the Show

Truly, all of the dishes were of a very high calibre, but, of course, there could be only one winner. The glory goes to Roxy McDonagh, of our kitchen at Virgin Atlantic, and her creation of Asian salmon with courgette ribbons.

Roxy’s dish had the ideal balance of flavour and fell well below our 500 calorie limit. It is cost effective to deliver and is a light but satisfying combination of ingredients perfect for a lunchtime service.  Of course, the most important factor in our decision was also the most simple – it was delicious! Roxy had cooked the salmon perfectly and the courgette ribbons were spot on as an accompaniment. It was a joy to eat.

Roxy, and all of the entrants, proved beyond doubt that it is possible to create beautiful dishes and meals that are filling, satisfying and hugely appealing yet contain far fewer calories than we have come to expect. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of Charlton House and CH&Co.