Adam Thomason was appointed executive head chef of Genuine Dining Co earlier this year. He was the 2018 Foodservice Catey Chef of the Year – Private Site and is a two-time runner-up in the Craft Guild of Chefs’ National Chef of the Year. He talks to Emma Lake about being given the freedom to choose his suppliers and the value of competitions
You joined Genuine Dining Co as executive head chef earlier this year. How have you found it?
It’s great. I really feel like I have joined a family. Having access to truly passionate suppliers that respond to the ever-changing needs of a smaller contract catering business is great. I am really looking forward to getting around to all the sites as there are so many amazing contracts that I can get involved in.
One of your areas of focus is driving the use of local suppliers. How are you going about this?
It’s one of the best parts of the job. It’s something contract catering companies often lose touch with, focusing instead on costs. Since I joined the company we have started working with Paul Rhodes bakery, a truly amazing baker based in Greenwich in London. It is now making the bread for some of our London contracts – keeping it local!
Genuine Dining Co has recently launched a Genuine Audit app. Can you tell us a little about this?
There are no two ways about it, audits are dull and then there’s the hours spent in front of a computer typing info up. This app allows an audit to be done in minutes, and it’s done there and then in the unit. The app then generates a score, which is added to a leaderboard of all our sites.
Sustainability and reducing food waste are on everyone’s agenda – how are you tackling it?
Training. It’s key that all the chefs understand their menus and know how to adapt them if the most sustainable products change. We have a close relationship with our suppliers and the chefs get this information quickly so they can change their menus accordingly.
Finding ways to reduce waste is so satisfying. Working out how to put as little in the bin as possible is a challenge I love. Creating dishes that use byproducts is also a great way to keep waste down, while making dishes even tastier.
You’re a double runner-up at National Chef of the Year. How did taking part in competitions help your development?
I am a big fan of this competition. Coming second twice is hard as it’s the worst place to finish: you’re so close, but it’s still not quite enough. I learned so much just from being involved though, as it puts you in a completely different cooking environment. Serving food to judges who are all role models is in itself a real privilege.
Do you think there are enough opportunities for chefs in contract catering to take the spotlight?
I think there are more opportunities now as there are so many chef competitions. There are also competitions created especially for contract caterers, like our in-house GenChef competition, which is open to everyone across Genuine Dining Co. This really helps showcase the talent we have within the business.
What are your ambitions?
I really want to help chefs grow and develop. Teaching new skills not only feels great but also improves the guests’ experience and make everything taste better.