‘We’re not as precious as we used to be on kit,’ says top Compass chef

Nick Vadis, culinary director

The most senior chef working for Britain’s largest caterer, Compass Group, admits the company is “not as precious” as it used to be on equipment choice and suggests clients are increasingly seeking its advice on creating the optimal kitchen.

In a wide-ranging interview published in the December issue of FEJ, Compass Group’s highly experienced and decorated culinary director, Nick Vadis, said it was less restricted on the suppliers it uses and noted that it was there to assist customers with their operational kitchen concerns.

“We are not as precious as we used to be on equipment so we can go to different suppliers, but invariably we inherit clients’ kitchens so sometimes we get a kitchen which we haven’t designed or don’t have any control over but we have to operate within it and maintain it to a certain degree,” he explained.

“Clients are increasingly asking us what we think is right for the kitchen and if we can influence that right at the early offset then you are going to have something that really works because in the past kitchens were usually designed as part of the building design, not with the functionality that you possibly needed it for.”

Mr Vadis, who recently returned from the World Culinary Olympics, where he coached the England team to a gold medal, thinks that if clients truly embrace Compass as a contractor and see it as a subject matter expert, it is only natural that they engage it on equipment purchases, especially in instances where a new-build is involved.

“They would probably use the on-site team through our commercial function Foodbuy, who have dedicated people that purchase equipment. They will work together with the client to get the right solution because the clients have the idea of what they want their offer to look like and therefore you need to map the equipment to deliver that offer,” he said.

Mr Vadis is based out of Compass Group’s HQ in Chertsey, where it operates a state-of-the-art development kitchen that also serves as a live catering environment providing food for the busy staff restaurant.

The restaurant is unique for the fact that it runs on a check system rather than a counter system, meaning staff and visitors can order their food from a terminal and everything is made fresh.

“It’s more fast-casual dining than fine dining,” explained Mr Vadis, who remains a huge advocate of embracing technology that bridges the gap between front and back of house.

“Love it or hate it, technology is inextricably linked to foodservice now. We are building in a feature called ‘My Order’, which means staff will be able to order a meal from their desk, pay for it on an app and then come down and collect it. We are going to have cameras on the counters so you can see how busy it is from your desk and we are doing a ‘blog of the day’ where we use a GoPro camera and a chef talks about the dish of the day. We are even talking about putting Table Tracker in, which tells us exactly where you are sat so the food can be delivered to the table.”

The full interview with Nick Vadis can be read in the latest digital edition of FEJ HERE.  

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