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 have excelled in their posts amidst unprecedented circumstances this year.
We are delighted to announce that the 2020 shortlist includes the following individuals:
Mark Heard, King Edward VII Hospital
Mark Heard runs an immaculate kitchen at London’s King Edward V11 Hospital, overseeing a menu of carefully-planned and freshly-cooked restaurant-standard food. 2020 has thrown up unprecedented challenges for healthcare catering and Mark has ensured that new protocols have been added to the already robust ones it followed. Although it deals in private care, the hospital opened its doors to NHS patients as well this year, requiring Mark to adapt its menu offer and support both kitchen and clinical staff. Praised by colleagues for his man-management skills and professional and flexible manner, Mark has created a team ethic among its brigade that has served it well during the most demanding of times.
Naved Nasir, Dishoom
Dishoom was on the cusp of opening its first Birmingham restaurant just as lockdown struck but that setback didn’t deter Naved Nasir and his team from making the best out of a difficult situation. Naved’s lovingly curated menu of Bombay comfort food has earned the brand a legion of fans so the creation of a first ever ‘at-home’ cooking kit was always going to be a winner. Additionally, Navid has developed a brand new delivery menu for the business to support its move into off-site delivery kitchens, providing an added revenue stream for the business without burdening existing restaurant kitchens. Dishoom Birmingham is now open with a revamped Covent Garden site set to follow.
Paul Fletcher, Whitbread
As senior quality and innovation chef, Paul Fletcher is all about the detail from farm to fork but he is also firmly plugged into the ways in which different platforms can be utilised to achieve menu consistency across hundreds of sites and multiple brands. Paul has had a key role to play in the back-of-house design of some of Whitbread’s most exciting new concepts, including Bar + Block, the contemporary steakhouse chain that is gaining scale. This year he has continued to explore how new equipment can make operations more effective and user-friendly for chefs, with fryers, pizza ovens and refrigeration on the agenda. Additionally, the streamlining of core menus has been a vital exercise during the changing climate.
Ross Pike, Oakman Inns & Restaurants
Oakman Inns has been a flag-bearer for the safe reopening of hospitality venues, with the company widely heralded as the first pub group to demonstrate how a socially-distanced restaurant and kitchen might operate. Ross Pike has had an instrumental role to play in the back-of-house set-up, directly overseeing numerous risk assessments, appliance testing and maintenance to ensure its kitchens were equipped to support the recovery. Changes to system processes were smoothly conveyed to Oakman’s brigade, while the consolidation of its menu was meticulously planned to account for operational adjustments in the kitchen. The attention to detail has clearly paid dividends: like-for-like food sales during Oakman’s latest quarter were up 45%.
Seamus O’Donnell, The Alchemist
Working on the principles of ‘honesty, trust and reliability’, Seamus O’Donnell is a force of nature for The Alchemist brand. His energy and presence is felt in every aspect of the business and colleagues credit him with coining the phrase: ‘Why do we have problems? So we can fix them.’ Over the past year Seamus has created a designated development kitchen in the basement of its Liverpool site to stay at the forefront of trends. His is an advocate of green kitchens, investing in self-regulating extraction systems and energy efficient cooking and refrigeration platforms. He has led a major food waste project while energy usage is now tracked at every site and figures reported weekly on BOH digital screens.
Eligible senior industry professionals will be invited to vote for their winner in an online vote over the next two weeks.
The winners of each category will be announced throughout Kitchen Equipment & Awards Week, which commences Monday 30 November.