It was working for Compass (Contract Caterer) that opened up my career path, I started in a B&I contract and then went on to do a mixture of theatre cookery, educational workshops, event catering and finally training & development with a retail contract (M&S). This most certainly helped to develop me and my skills and when it came to moving on from Compass I knew then that I wanted to continue focusing on menu and new product development. Since parting with Compass 10 years ago I went onto work for Cucina (Education), Reynolds (Foodservice), SSP (Air & rail concessions), Greene King (Pubs) and now Las Iguanas (Casual dining).
An ideal day is working on site developing new recipes and reviewing new products with suppliers (old and new). Other days consist of food presentations, site visits, supplier visits, tastings, industry networking events, industry exhibitions, research trips (UK & Abroad), demonstrations, retail development, training, competitions and internal meetings. Amongst this I have to build all the recipes, specs & products into our F&B system, this can be laborious and tedious at times so home is the best place for this…minimal distraction and a decent cuppa at hand!
With Las Iguanas being a Latin American focused brand our key areas of influence come from South American cuisines such as Mexican, Brazilian, Argentinean, Peruvian and others, I also like to showcase anything trending in the industry and add some British seasonality where possible which leads me onto our main menu changes, we have two major menu changes which are Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter which launch in beginning of April/end of September respectively. There are also Christmas, kids, Brunch and party offers to update and continually enhance.
I love the research trips, they can be good fun... But the best part of my job comes when we launch a new menu… all the months of hard work (Let me tell you drinking caipirinhas on Copacabana beach can be hard work) comes to fruition and seeing the dish I have developed being put together by a chef I have trained served by one of our cheery servers to a happy customer is the ultimate job satisfaction.
I’ve been very lucky to visit many different locations but Brazil has to be my favourite… My stand out memorable moment was crossing the Guanabara Bay from Rio to Praia de Itaipu, there was no port or harbour and the boats were restricted from going onto the beach so we had to anchor and swim to shore, once on shore we headed to this amazing place called pli’s on board, I met Plicilla (the chef and owner) and she showed me how to make her famous prawn pastels (small fried prawn & cheese pastries which people travel far and wide for…we certainly did) the kitchen was ridiculously hot but to then sit out and enjoy the array of Brazilian beach food (with a beer of course) she put on for us was just one of the best moments of hospitality I’ve ever had… the company wasn’t bad either!