The Executive Chef of the Year award, sponsored by Panasonic, recognises that whether it is restaurants, pubs, care homes, contract caterers or any other professional foodservice business, the group executive chef, food director (or any other similar title) has one of the most important roles to play when it comes to what happens on a kitchen level.
From creative menu development and food sourcing to kitchen specification and roll-outs, this accolade honours those individuals that are excelling in their posts.
We are delighted to announce that the 2018 shortlist includes the following individuals:
Chris Knights, Young’s & Geronimo Pubs
Young’s & Geronimo Pubs have driven an increase in food sales over the past year, which is in no small part due to a clear and defined catering strategy led by Chris Knights and his food development team. Frequent engagement with the 180 chefs that work across its estate, coupled with a firm emphasis on using seasonal ingredients to give classic pub dishes a fresh twist, has allowed the group to create innovative, localised menus that are underpinned by its premium-focused ethos. Chris has shaped clear styles of cooking for the group and worked closely with suppliers to achieve a more universal approach to kitchen design.
Glenn Evans, Las Iguanas
Glenn Evans oversees one of the most skilled kitchen operations within the casual dining sector due to Las Iguanas’ unique focus on authentic Latin American dishes that are fully prepped and assembled in-house. All dishes are cooked fresh on site using the highest quality ingredients from the countries that inspire its food, meaning that Glenn and his development team have to diligently align new menu developments with its cooking platforms to ensure they can be executed easily across its estate. Recent menu investments, which have included the addition of 15 new dishes to its spring offering and an updated evening Nightlife menu, are testimony to the innovative work that takes place in its development kitchen.
Mike Lewis, YO! Sushi
With a raft of new openings in places such as Worcester, Sheffield and Glasgow, Mike Lewis has played a major role in ensuring that the ergonomics of YO! Sushi’s kitchens are perfect for quick and efficient service, while also sourcing the latest equipment innovation. International launches in New York, Sydney and Paris have benefitted from his expertise in kitchen and bespoke menu design, while he has led a massive menu development programme domestically. This includes an exclusive menu for its Selfridges branch and a street food-led menu for a ‘no conveyor belt’ restaurant at Boxpark Croydon, while a new authentic menu featuring katsu sando and huge sumo nabe-inspired bowls has proved a hit for the rest of its estate.
Rob Mitchell, Drake & Morgan
Rob Mitchell has been with Drake & Morgan from its very first launch and has been integral in shaping food strategy and menu direction as the bar and restaurant operator has evolved into a true multi-site business. The roll-out of additional sites during the past 12 months, including its first in Manchester, means that Rob is now responsible for more than 20 kitchens. His emphasis on innovation and attention to detail has resulted in Drake & Morgan developing some of the best-equipped and proficient kitchens in the business, while extensive menu development work, particularly around the ‘flexitarian’ way of eating, has ensured it’s been at the forefront of consumer trends.
Simon Xavier, Chiquito
Under Simon Xavier’s guidance, Chiquito has been able to dramatically streamline its kitchen prep processes and improve productivity thanks to new menu innovation that has been adapted nationwide. The 85-strong Mexican chain’s offering is simpler and easier for customers to navigate, benefitting from a 30% reduction in the number of main dishes, which has also reduced the number of back-of-house processes involved in preparation. Consequently, this has improved consistency and speed of service throughout the space. As the person who signs off the kitchens for new restaurants, Simon’s dedication to ensuring each set-up is ergonomic, efficient and correctly equipped has been a major factor in the chain’s operational success.
The 2018 FEJ Awards ceremony and gala dinner takes place on Tuesday 5 June, the first evening of the Commercial Kitchen show, at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.