What is your current role and what does it entail?
I’m currently food development manager. I cover the Midlands area mainly working in the Edwards and Blake and Taylor Shaw sites, which is the education arm of Elior UK. Day-to-day my role varies quite a lot, including national menu development, sales presentations for new business, large event management and leading chef engagement projects within the business.
Why did you want to work in foodservice?
While studying I did a module in food development and from then on I knew it was what I wanted to do as a career. Initially I wanted to work in product development for a food manufacturer, but after taking a gamble and a job in foodservice I quickly realised it was perfect for me. With a foodservice development chef role thousands of people can be eating the dishes that you created the recipe for across the country, as opposed to a restaurant where your audience is very limited.
What education, training and competitions have you undertaken to get this far?
For education I did City & Guilds professional cookery levels 1 to 3 and a culinary art management degree. Competition-wise, while I was at college I participated in the Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition. After college I participated in Elior’s own culinary competition and the StrEAT Food Awards a couple of times.
Although all of the above contributed to where I am today, the key skills I learned that still stand me in good stead were gained while I was cooking in professional kitchens. College will definitely teach you how to cook and the core skills you need for your career, but nothing beats working in a fast-paced restaurant under pressure in a stressful environment for hours on end.
How could B&I businesses attract more rising stars into the sector?
B&I businesses just need to carry on promoting themselves through social media. Many of my chef friends see what I get up to at work, the great food we produce and are always asking about how they can get involved. The key benefit of contract catering is the sheer variation of different chef roles in the sector; I think we need to promote this much more as an industry.
How do you think the industry could improve?
Reducing waste – both from a food waste and a packaging perspective. Within Elior we have a great corporate responsibility team that are always looking at how we can leave a positive footprint from our work. Something that we are always looking to improve is how to reduce the amount of packaging that is used, as well as if the packaging that we are using is environmentally friendly.
Lexington Catering, which is also part of Elior UK, has a great concept called trashed which uses products from the food chain that would normally be wasted. If everyone in the industry even made just small changes it would make massive improvements.
What trends do you predict for the future?
In the long term, alternative protein sources. With the population ever-increasing there is a lot of work going into finding alternative protein sources, wherever these come from. I think that in 10 years’ time it will be common to see insect proteins on everyday menus and cultured meat that is grown in labs on supermarket shelves.
In the short term I think veganism will continue to grow as a lifestyle trend, which will have an impact on innovation in the food production industry. Nut cheeses made with nut milks are something I definitely think we will see appearing on menus across the UK.
What is your biggest ambition in the industry?
My personal ambition is to be director of food for one of the global foodservice leaders and have the opportunity to develop, mentor and encourage the next generation of chefs in the B&I sector.