Tony Blake

Commercial Manager

I grew up in the great country of Devon, right on the North Devon coast, so I was surrounded by an abundance of great West Country products form 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!

I then took up the position of sous chef at the Castle Hotel in Taunton, which took me to a completely different level!

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 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.