The Alchemist’s culinary director Seamus O’Donnell is looking forward to inspiring his kitchen brigade to new heights when the industry fully reopens again after what he describes as a “real rollercoaster” 12 months.
Mr O’Donnell was voted Executive Chef of the Year in the 2020 Kitchen & Equipment Awards, hosted by FEJ and Catering Insight.
The category was sponsored by Panasonic, whose business development manager Jared Greenhalgh recently presented Mr O’Donnell with his trophy.
Mr O’Donnell said the industry could never have anticipated the events that shaped the sector in 2020.
“Starting off the year, who would have been able to predict what was ahead? Many challenges presented themselves throughout the summer but alongside successfully placing our restaurants into hibernation and remaining in constant communication with all our suppliers and landlords, it enabled us to safeguard the business which in turn, with the use of the furlough scheme, secured the jobs of our staff.”
Prior to the pandemic, Mr O’Donnell had overseen the culinary expansion of The Alchemist as it grew to more than 20 sites in the UK.
He created a designated development kitchen in the basement of The Alchemist’s Liverpool site to stay at the forefront of trends while embracing self-regulating extraction systems and energy efficient cooking and refrigeration platforms.
He also led a major food waste equipment trial that is set to have major implications for its UK store network.
The Alchemist’s first crop of apprentices graduated in December and will take up senior roles within the kitchen brigade, while its next site is scheduled to open in Edinburgh in May.
Reflecting on his award win, Mr O’Donnell said: “To be shortlisted for this prestigious award was an honour and something to be extremely proud of. Being announced Executive Chef of the Year was a humbling experience as the shortlist was made of talented individuals who are highly respected within the industry.
“The fact that this has been voted on by senior executives and fellow peers in the industry gives substance to the philosophy that I educate my chefs on of ‘trust, honesty and reliability’ and emphasises relationships is the foundation of any successful business.”