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INDUSTRY INTERVIEW: How Rational’s corporate chef team is unlocking growth for operators from all sectors

Graham Kille, technical sales director

Graham Kille heads up Rational’s corporate chef team, which plays an integral role in the thermal cooking equipment manufacturer’s UK’s operations. As technical sales director, his responsibilities are to manage, lead and inspire the team to ensure they deliver maximum benefit to Rational customers in all sectors, as FEJ learns.

Even before he joined Rational in 2001, Graham Kille can remember the company employing chefs to provide support to customers.

He knew the value of that only too well, having honed his craft as a chef after gaining his qualifications at culinary college. He worked in 5-star hotels, ran a private members club, had his own restaurant and managed the catering teams in two major hospitals before switching to the equipment sales side of the market.

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So when he says that it has always been Rational’s goal to provide maximum customer support, he is certainly talking from a position of knowledge. “It’s about helping customers get the best experience throughout the lifetime of their cooking system,” he says.

“This is still very much the case today but the team’s role has expanded — as has the team. I believe that Rational manufactures the best cooking systems— but to be successful, you also have to deliver the very best customer support.”

The core of Rational’s UK team includes its three professional corporate chefs, Ross Crook, Theo Bostock and Tom Bentham, who boast a wealth of knowledge and expertise. “The corporate chef team, along with their regional sales colleagues, provide the biggest culinary support network in the market of any equipment manufacturer nationally,” comments Kille.

While the key responsibility is supporting customers, the corporate team also works closely with Rational-accredited dealers and supports the company’s internal departments with culinary education.

For instance, when the company launched a series of new combi ovens and multifunctional cooking systems last year, the team trained all Rational’s UK and Ireland personnel as well as the dealer network. “It’s only by delivering top-level training and education that we can, in turn, ensure customers receive maximum benefit from their cooking systems,” explains Kille.

He continues: “We are constantly evolving the role of the corporate chef team, especially with the increasing importance of online demonstrations and virtual events. In a typical day, the team could be helping with individual customers’ challenges so, for example, it might be developing a full menu, or it could be helping with very specific queries — drying fruit, roasting peanuts and smoking fish are examples that have all come up recently!

“Whatever the customer’s business, we thrive on providing a solution to their challenges — whether they are an independent pub or a major high street chain. In addition, the corporate chefs support the Rational Chef line, answering application and culinary enquiries 365 days a year. They are also responsible for running Rational Chef Academies and supporting on-site customer training.”

It’s important for Rational that the team is regionally based so that they can respond quickly to customer requirements in their area. Geographically, the company can cover every area of the UK and all of Ireland, and its chefs can be available to assist, whether operators are in London or the Scilly Isles.

“If customers require help with their cooking challenges, our corporate chef team will be available to advise them. Having said that, the corporate chefs also work internationally and liaise very closely with the Rational AG culinary team situated in our head office in Landsberg, Germany,” says Kille.

The team’s work is not just about showing how the iCombi and iVario cooking systems perform — they also give guidance on the additional benefits, such as adding flexibility to their menus, saving on preparation time and reducing food waste.

Customers also receive essential education on how to gain the maximum potential from their cooking systems’ intelligent technology. That could range from showing a customer how to use ConnectedCooking to upload recipes, to explaining how to use the low-temperature process for overnight cooking.

The corporate chefs use their skills and knowledge to ensure that resources are 100% relevant to specific sectors, such as care homes, pubs and hospitals”

The corporate chef team plays a key role with supporting both national and international key accounts. Says Kille: “As well as providing training and menu development support, our chefs can assist with kitchen management, too. For example, helping to set up ConnectedCooking to support the customer’s HACCP system.

The team also works with multiple-site customers, helping to test and develop new menu items. They’ll carry out the product testing with the company’s own chefs and help with the product roll-out and software programming.”

The corporate chef team invests a lot of time liaising with industry organisations, such as the Craft Guild of Chefs, as part of its work in developing and sharing knowledge with new recruits to the industry. In 2021, Rational and the corporate chef team will be running a competition with the Guild aimed at supporting culinary college students.

Kille says that a key objective this year is developing and supporting specific sectors within the industry.
“The corporate chefs use their skills and knowledge to ensure that resources are 100% relevant to specific sectors, such as care homes, pubs and hospitals,” he says. “For example, we’re producing a programme of sector Live online events, where the chef cooks an appropriate menu. The programmes are all produced in-house in the UK, by the corporate chefs.

“A key characteristic of Rational’s cooking systems is their flexibility — and our corporate chef team reflects that, too. Their expertise covers every foodservice sector and beyond. Their work in product development has included not only foodservice sectors such as in-flight catering, food-to-go, hotels and schools, but also butchers, bakers — even pet food producers!”

Through their constant dialogue with customers, members of the team truly have their finger on the pulse. If there’s a new trend emerging, they’ll probably know about it because they’ve already been working on it.

“Rational has always been an innovator and a market leader,” says Kille. “The corporate chef team helps us to ensure that we maintain that cutting edge.”

Rational to launch live online chef demos for pub kitchens

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Andrew Seymour

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