The Executive Chef of the Year award 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 2019 shortlist includes the following individuals:
Antony Bennett, Loungers
Antony Bennett has been at the vanguard of the innovative ‘shackles-off’ approach to menu development that has fuelled food growth for both the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, all at a time when the company has opened at least two new kitchens every month due to expansion. In the last 12 months, Antony has been instrumental in channelling Loungers’ food development towards food delivery consistency, maintaining the best quality with suppliers but keeping the focus on making the lives of its chefs easier and creating highly effective kitchen layouts. His work has involved smartening up its prep processes, concentrating on developing dishes that are generally easier to execute at peak times and obsessing with making its core food products the best they can be.
Arnaud Kaziewicz, EAT
With a wealth of culinary knowledge and global experience in food development to his name, Arnaud Kaziewicz has excelled in his quest to enhance the range of food that EAT offers and helped to create an identity built on taste, value and diversity. Taking his inspiration from home-cooked food, Arnaud has led a strategy that endorses simple, perfectly-seasoned products. The revamping of its baguette range has proved a huge success for the business, while a blend of attention to detail and simplicity has led to other well-received menu tweaks. Provenance and sustainability have taken centre stage under Arnaud’s culinary leadership, which is no mean feat when endeavouring to serve a consistent menu and implement an effective kitchen operation across 110 sites.
Paul Jarvest, Revere Pub Company
Paul Jarvest continually reviews his menu and the equipment that is needed to support Revere Pub Company’s high food standards and believes in sticking rigorously to the best quality brands. In a climate where it would be easy to choose lower-cost alternatives, Paul has remained faithful to his proven kitchen template by ensuring every new opening has the same platform to deliver the premium menu that it offers. Paul is committed to making sure the group not only has access to the best quality ingredients but the right prime cooking applications to elevate them. His success is built on the ethos that a stand-out menu requires the magic combination of the right kit, ingredients, training and passion.
Ross Pike, Oakman Inns & Restaurants
Oakman Inns epitomises the concept of the ‘modern public house’ with its transformation of historical and contemporary buildings into compelling hospitality spaces – and it’s all underpinned by a carefully-crafted food proposition led by Ross Pike. He pays particular attention to the use of seasonal ingredients and quality equipment so that his chef teams can create flavoursome Mediterranean-inspired dishes that delight customers time and time again. A combination of Josper charcoal ovens, wood-fired pizza ovens and state-of-the-art induction provides the bedrock for a scalable kitchen set-up that is delivering growth with each new site it opens. Ross has also overseen the launch of a dedicated training kitchen in Amersham that is proving to be a powerful resource for the group.
Surendra Yejju, Wagamama
Surendra Yejju’s enormous talent for food development and understanding the trends shaping Asian cuisine has made him a huge asset for Wagamama during a time of rapid expansion. Over the past year he has spearheaded the launch of two national menus and six menus at its Noodle Lab test site, as well as pioneering its smart rota project for back-of-house staff and training Wagamama’s senior chef team on menu roll-outs. With delivery taking on added significance for the business, Surendra has played a major role in setting up Wagamama’s first Deliveroo Editions site, with more to follow. And on the equipment side he has driven improvements in oil savings, energy consumption and finished product following trials of high-spec frying equipment.
The 2019 FEJ Awards ceremony and gala dinner takes place on Tuesday 4 June, the first evening of the Commercial Kitchen show, at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.