FLAVOURS of Venezuela helped a catering assistant at Haddington’s Knox Academy regain a national title.

Maria Millar, who is originally from the South American country and has worked at the secondary school for nearly four years, was crowned Scottish School Cook of the Year after wowing judges with her exotic flavours.

The final of the competition took place at the Cook School Scotland, near Kilmarnock, and again attracted cooks from schools across the country.

Mum-of-two Maria served up turkey meatballs in a red sauce served with rice primavera followed by tres leche – three milk – cake, which includes condensed milk, evaporated milk and double cream.

A delighted Maria told the Courier: “I am trying to introduce more Latin food here. My kind of food is different here and maybe people want to try something different.

“People are excited to try different things.”

Maria originally came to Scotland for a holiday but never left and now lives in Haddington with her husband and two boys.

The 41-year-old has already tasted success at the awards, winning Scottish School Cook of the Year in 2016.

Each cook had to create a main dish and dessert within 90 minutes.

A maximum of £1.60 was allowed to be spent on ingredients and each cook had to comply with the healthy eating standards set out in The Schools (Health promotion and Nutrition Act) (Scotland) 2007 legislation, which is in force in all schools throughout Scotland.

All entrants were encouraged to use at least one item of Scottish produce in both the main course and dessert.

Sue Cook, headteacher at Knox Academy, said: “We’re so proud of our wonderful cook Maria, who has won this coveted award two times now.

“We are so fortunate to have such an amazing staff team in our food court who serve us Masterchef-level cuisine on a day-to-day basis.”

Ward councillor Shamin Akhtar, the council’s spokeswoman for education and children’s services, added: “Congratulations to Maria from Knox Academy for winning the Scottish School Cook of the year for 2019.

“This is the second time that Maria has won this national award and she is the only School Cook in Scotland to have won it twice, which is a fantastic achievement.

“I’m delighted that her work is being recognised in this way, especially her engagement with young people in developing the menu and promoting healthy eating.”

The other finalists in the competition were from East Ayrshire Council and Scottish Borders Council.