Oakman Inns has flown 20 head chefs to Italy as part of a fact-finding mission designed to ensure its kitchens remain creative.
The team headed out to Eataly, the largest Italian agri-food marketplace in the world, for a close-up look at some of the trends and techniques it can import to the UK.
The event played host to all 20 of Oakman’s head chefs and two chef designates, led by Oakman’s chef director Ross Pike, at their newly-opened venue in the Bolognese countryside.
The site includes several hectares of farm land for rearing their own livestock, impressive food production facilities, a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, demonstration areas and a conference centre which all celebrate the best of Italian cuisine and culture.
The three-day trip was packed with courses, demonstrations and tastings by renowned Italian chefs, producers and suppliers.
Oakman has run a study trip for the last three years, with head chefs dispatched to the Mediterranean countries that inspire its menus.
Pike, who runs the trips as part of Oakman’s Chef Development Programme, believes they inspire and refresh his team and at the same time allow them to swap ideas and to build a bond within the Oakman family.
“These few days together immersed our chefs in good food culture, and gave them the opportunity to meet top traditional producers and suppliers of the key ingredients they use daily such as balsamic vinegar, mozzarella, olive oil, parma ham, fresh egg pasta and other Italian delicacies. They gained a useful insight into what influences our menu thinking and to understand how and why these top-class ingredients came into being themselves.”
The Chef Development Programme is a vital part of the overall growth of Oakman Inns, which has grown to 20 units in just 10 years. In the last five years, 35% of its head chefs have been promoted from within and six of those have been head chefs at Oakman Inns for over three years.
Peter Borg-Neal, Oakman Inns’ CEO, said: “Inspiring our people is the start point of our approach to team engagement. Ross Pike’s programme of regular trips abroad for our senior chefs builds enthusiasm for quality produce and the amazing craftsmanship of some of these astonishing food producers. We believe that this inspiration will be reflected in everything our chefs do in their own kitchens. Furthermore, these trips engender great camaraderie among the team, which in turn helps create a mutually supportive culture.”