Acorns 2020: Leo Kattou, 28
Head chef, Simpsons, Birmingham
Nominator Luke Tipping
Leo Kattou has worked at Simpsons in Birmingham since he was 16 years old, starting as an apprentice. During his time at the Michelin-starred restaurant, several chefs have mentored him, helping him to evolve as both a chef and a people manager. The job title of head chef at Simpsons was reintroduced especially for him, to ensure that he never became "the best chef the restaurant never had".
Kattou reached the semi-finals of BBC's Masterchef: The Professionals competition in 2017 at the age of 24. He won the Heinz Hospitality Heroes competition (organised in association with industry networking group Arena) in 2019, becoming a member of Arena and acting as an ambassador for other young chefs in the industry.
In 2018, when Masterchef: The Professionals semi-finalist Matt Campbell tragically died in the London Marathon, Kattou organised the Finish for Matt charity run in his memory. The funds raised went towards the Brathay Trust, the charity that Campbell had been running for in his father's memory.
Do you think the hospitality industry could be more sustainable? Not just in terms of plastics and waste but in terms of careers and diversity, training and growth?
Of course – sustainability is not a buzzword! Kitchens have changed over the past 10 years, and the focus should be on progression and training to ensure that junior members, and senior members, too, have the space to develop and be mentored. That is the only way we will keep chefs in kitchens – with support. And the only way we will adapt is if we have a diverse team from a diverse background.
Who is your hospitality hero?
Luke Tipping, my chef director at Simpsons. He is 55 years old and still mentors everyone on a day-to-day basis. His passion and his support for others shines not only throughout the whole business but the whole industry, too.