Retail and care group unveils kitchen blueprint after operational restructure

Norman MacKenzie, executive chef

The executive chef at the helm of some of Tyneside’s most popular venues has unveiled a blueprint for their futures – and a raft of new menus.

Master Chef of Great Britain, Norman MacKenzie, joined Newcastle-based leisure and hospitality giant Malhotra Group five months ago, tasked with overseeing its entire catering operation.

And, following stringent staff training and restructuring, MacKenzie has re-focused and streamlined the menus at Scalini’s, at Jesmond and Gosforth, The Runhead, at Ryton and the Sandpiper at Cullercoats.

“The restaurants within the group’s portfolio are diverse, geographically and in terms of their market and their offering and my priority has been to preserve their individual appeal while establishing a consistency of quality and service throughout,” he explained.

Scalini’s are, first and foremost, neighbourhood Italian restaurants with very loyal core customer bases and so, along with its popular pizzas and pasta dishes, it has introduced specials, which will change daily in line with produce seasonality and availability.

New dishes include slow cooked lemon and rosemary lamb shoulder with sautéed courgette, pimento, green beans, garlic and parmesan, served with gnocchi, in a bid to return to traditional Italian cookery.

“The specials will be very much down to the head chefs at each venue and will give them the chance to expand their creativity, pass their skills on to their team and, ultimately, give the customer more choice and satisfaction,” continued MacKenzie.

The menus at The Sandpiper and The Runhead, meanwhile, have also been re-worked with an emphasis on seafood at the Cullercoats venue, with dishes such as seabass en papillotte – baked in a parcel with fennel – and North Sea fish and chips.

“At The Runhead, which is very much a family venue, we are keeping the menu deliberately broad in terms of the choice – sharing platters, wraps, mains, sandwiches and so forth – but varying the dishes within those categories,” explained MacKenzie.

Main dishes will include baked cauliflower cheese and squash, chickpea and spinach curry alongside heartier meals such as chicken, ham and leek suet pudding and steak and ale pie. It has also introduced beef and ale and lamb and root vegetable sharing casseroles as part of an ongoing strategy to create a ‘home from home’ experience at the venue.

MacKenzie will now bring his expertise to bear across other Malhotra Group venues, including Osbornes, Jesmond and its Prestwick Care residential care homes across the region.

“It’s a wide-ranging brief which covers everything from food compliance and staff development, to the re-design of kitchens but at the core of it all is quality. We are focussing on providing the best ingredients, cooked in the best way by the best people – at each and every one of our venues, to make Malhotra Group synonymous with quality across the board.”

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