Chefs should make the most of the support that suppliers and development chefs can provide, says Laurence Tottingham
Anyone walking into a kitchen should tread carefully when it comes to offering advice to the chef in charge, and that is especially true of other chefs.
I was honoured to be named Development Chef of the Year for 2019 by the Craft Guild of Chefs in June. Across the categories, I was among many talented chefs
in different sectors, all at the front line in delivering wonderful food and unforgettable customer experiences, day after day.
So, with so much talent out there, what does a good development chef bring to the party? It’s certainly not about challenging the creativity of the chefs in the kitchen, but hopefully giving them an opportunity to benefit from the insight of someone with a wide view of trends.
Chefs don’t need reminding that consumer trends move quickly, and in a competitive market businesses can quickly get left behind. We aim to offer customers insight into these trends, along with some added wow factor – such as the Hell Fire Fizz Bomb burger, with popping candy as an ingredient, developed for Revolution Bars – as well as commercial knowledge and experience, which can help save on costs and rationalise purchasing.
Both kitchen labour and equipment costs are at a premium. By acting as a middle-man between manufacturers and customers to identify the right pre-made or ready-prepped products, we aim to help customers focus their time on making the signature dishes that genuinely add value for the consumer.
Making the most of staff training and development opportunities is also key. The plant-based trend is just one way we’ve supported operators to capitalise on changing consumer expectations. Workshops in our development kitchen demonstrating appealing and profitable vegan dishes, backed up by a growing recipe database, have helped many of our customers keep pace.
This kind of support from a development chef can provide wider insights and ideas to supplement the ‘on the ground’ experience of chefs creating great menus on a daily basis. It was very rewarding to see the testimonials from customers in support of my Craft Guild award entry, citing the value of the support they had received. To be recognised by your peers is humbling. Working with talented chefs and enthusiastic kitchen teams across all parts of the industry, helping to make their businesses more successful through menu development and innovation, is a very rewarding way to spend my working life.
The eating out market isn’t going to get any less challenging. By working together to ensure there are interesting and engaging menus on offer, we all play a part in helping the hospitality sector keep its competitive edge. For busy chefs, making the most of the support on offer from suppliers is very much a show of strength, not an admission of weakness.
Laurence Tottingham won Development Chef of the Year 2019 at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards in June. He is development chef at fresh produce specialist Oliver Kay Produce