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Chefs Think Tank

At kff, we believe it is important to understand and empathise with our customers and that we speak the same language when consulting with them about their businesses. We actively employ chefs and foodies to work for us so we can do this in a way that makes sense to the various chefs and kitchen managers we speak to on a daily basis.

A vital part of our approach is the Chefs Think Tank. Made up of four former head chefs, the Chefs Think Tank brings together their valuable insight to provide a better service to our customers. Their knowledge spills over into every aspect of our business, informing the approach of our sales teams, influencing the products we choose to list and contributing to the content in our various brochures. Many of the ideas, recipes and tips found in our publications have been created by the Chefs Think Tank, including all of the recipes on our website.

With the help of our Chefs Think Tank, we continue to provide you with ideas, innovation and inspiration, backed up by the people who know the industry best. You can get in touch with our Chefs Think Tank at any time using the Twitter hashtag #ChefsThinkTank!

 

 

I grew up in the great county of Devon, right on the North Devon coast, so I was surrounded by an abundance of great West Country products from an early age. Food was in my blood from day one, as I was born above my mum and dads grocery shop! My mum was a great cook, turning boring normal meals into great memories. My dad would prep and cook his own hams and I have vivid memories of watching him boning out sides of bacon using a piece of string - brilliant!

At secondary school I chose to do the Domestic Cookery course, which I thoroughly enjoyed and it further developed my passion for cooking good food!

Having attended Stratford-upon-Avon Technical College, I took my chefs exams and was lucky to be taught by some of the great old classic chefs. It was suggested that I did my initial training with British Transport Hotels, so they got me my first job, commis chef at the Manor House Hotel, Moretonhampstead (now the Bovey Castle Hotel). It was great being a part of a team where everyone seemed to know what they were doing…apart from me!

So that’s where it all started. From there, I worked in London at the Great Western Royal Hotel, then The Elms Hotel near Worcester. I then took up the position of sous chef at the Castle Hotel in Taunton, which took me to a completely different level! From there, I felt ready to head up my own brigade and moved to Kent for the first time to run the kitchen at Eastwell Manor Hotel, Ashford.

This was followed by another head chef post where I opened up the kitchens at Lucknam Park Hotel, near Bath. I finished my chef career by giving something back to the industry and became a college lecturer at Lancaster and Morecambe College, which I enjoyed for a couple of years, before switching career paths and getting involved in foodservice.

Now, I can draw on my experiences when sourcing new products and looking at exciting food concepts, knowing if they will work well or not, on various menus, in all types of kitchens. I still have a strong passion for good food and quality products and working with a team of like-minded people here at kff makes it all the easier to deliver that passion and quality to our customers.

At kff, I lead our Buying & Marketing function, overseeing everything from sourcing exciting new products to delivering supplier focus days for the sales teams at our head office, as well as taking an active role in everything from our bi-monthly food photoshoots to cooking at various exhibitions. I am also a regular judge at the annual Kent Young Chef Awards, hosted by Produced in Kent.

 

 

At the age of 16 I started my chef career working in pubs. I would work in local, independently-run places and would help produce everything from homemade game pies to traditional roast dinners. After a short spell working within various pubs, I made a rather exciting career change and moved into location catering!

I travelled anywhere across Britain and Jersey, depending on where filming took place, working on productions like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Spooks and Sexy Beast as well as on music video sets for Lenny Kravitz, The Spice Girls, All Saints, Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene to name a few. As a team, we produced breakfast, mid-morning breaks, lunch, afternoon tea and evening meals for the whole cast and crew, which could be anywhere between 50 to 350 people if there were extras as well!

Next, I joined a chef agency to see the sort of different places it might take me. These included an aerospace engineering company and the former BT head office in South East London, catering for the directors.

After my time working with the chef agency, I became the head chef of West Lodge Banqueting, producing food for up to 800 people per day. Functions included weddings, Masonic evenings and the Magic Circle. There I prepared menus and was in charge of a team of 10-15 chefs.

In between my various roles I have also worked for Chigwell Police Club, catering for silver service charity events for up to 1000 people at a time, Club Kingswood Health Club, the only health club to have won the South East Health Club of the Year for two years running, The Prince Regents Hotel, London and last of all the Abridge Golf Club, Essex.

Here at kff, I look after our team of Area Sales Managers in and around London, ensuring they are always delivering the high level of service our capital’s caterers deserve! I take any opportunity I can to jump back into the kitchen, regularly appearing behind the counter with Tony to keep visitors fed at the various shows and exhibitions we attend throughout the year, such as The Restaurant Show.

 

 

My passion for cooking began when making Christmas cakes with my Nan, pretty much from the age of 11! Ever since, I have had a passion for food and an urge to try new things out, to see if I could create something new.

I began training at Stratford upon Avon College, and at the mere age of 16 I was sent of packing for a six week work experience programme at Claridge’s, during which I was offered a commis position before I had even completed my six week training!

I spent the first few months of my time at Claridge’s homesick and wondering what I had done, missing my small village. However, I formed a new family within the Claridge’s team, where I spent the following four years of my career. When I left Claridge’s, I left as the Senior Chef de Partie on the sauce section, working alongside John Williams and Claire Clark on the pastry section.

I decided I wanted to explore a new side of the industry and joined the team at Michelin-starred restaurant, Putney Bridge. I worked with Anthony Demetre for the following 2 years on the pastry section, exploring new products and ideas.

I began my first exec chef role with Everson Hewitt, a catering company positioned at PricewaterhouseCoopers, working in the restaurant kitchen. I was given the opportunity to assist with developing new ideas and dishes for the group alongside John Woodward, which was very exciting. Working in the contract catering industry afforded me the time to master the art of my passion for Thai carving and cake decoration, learning to carve pumpkins and create detailed cakes.

With my growing passion of food and the desire to expand my knowledge, I took a complete 360 degree turn to face the industry from a new angle.  The opportunity to take a sales role at kff arose and I knew it would take my love of food to another level!

Now a Key Accounts Manager at kff, I look after some of our larger accounts. I regularly communicate our customers’ needs to Tony, who always ensures our range of products contains everything our customers will need to create a point of difference in their menus. I’m also extremely passionate about on-trend food, helping to develop some of the more innovative recipes which appear in our brochures and on our website – most recently, our Poached Egg Protein Pots!

 

 

I first found an interest in cooking aged 13, when I used to wash up in the local pub at the weekends for some extra pocket money. I kept questioning Chef (much to his annoyance at times) on what he was doing, why he was cooking things in certain ways, always watching and listening with anticipation as to what was to be produced next. Eventually he allowed me to do simple prep in the kitchen, just to keep me quiet I think! This was the beginning of a very satisfying introduction within the food and hospitality industry.

Upon leaving school I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do as a career and after deliberation decided to join a YTS scheme designed for the Catering Industry. I took a role at a local hotel, working there 5 days a week while attending South Downs Catering College 1 day a week. I completed my course 6 months early and left college in 1993 with Distinctions in City & Guilds 706/1 & 2 as well as completing the new NVQ Level 3. I remained at the hotel for a further five years, working in various roles, obtaining experience within all departments.

In 1998 I was offered my first role as head chef, leading a small team in a country pub in Hampshire, producing great quality homemade food using local, seasonal ingredients. This was the springboard which led me to work within similar establishments with larger kitchens and dining rooms.

In the early 2000’s I took a break from cooking and went to work for the unique wine merchants, Oddbins, taking the opportunity to sell and learn more about another subject I have a great passion for: wine! To me it made sense; I mean, what goes better with great food than great company? Although very satisfying as a vocation, the company unfortunately became no more and I returned to my first true love, cooking.

I went to work for a friend of mine whose pub had fallen on hard times and we set about the task of transforming it back. This is where I was first introduced to kff as a supplier. I found the quality of products to be outstanding and economic, which allowed me to transform my dishes into ones offering not only quality, but value too.

When I felt my time in the kitchen had come to an end, I still wanted to remain within the food industry so applied for a position at kff. Using my experience within catering and knowledge of the products I have used first hand, in a working kitchen, my romance with food continues.

Now one of two Business Development Managers for Purple Pineapple and Planète Pain, I use my experience in the kitchen to help deliver a well-informed, knowledgeable service to my customers, focusing specifically on the fantastic range of breads and fillings we have available here at kff. I take a very active role at Purple Pineapple, kff’s own brand of premium fillings, in helping to develop new products, always keeping an ear to the ground for emerging trends.