Foodservice Cateys 2019: Trainee Chef of the Year – Nathan Racey, Levy UK
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Nathan Racey's chef career began when he was spotted at FutureChef, the youth competition run by hospitality charity Springboard, by Mark Reynolds, executive head chef at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for Levy UK, the sports, arena and events catering division of Compass Group UK and Ireland. Reynolds immediately offered him an apprenticeship as a commis chef.
As a member of a team of 15 chefs, which increases to 235 on match days, Racey is involved in preparing players' meals at the training ground in collaboration with the club's nutritionist, as well as working in the stadium's prestigious H Club, where membership costs £60,000 a year, and the chairman's suite.
In working to strict nutritional specifications for the players, Racey's ability to work to such exact calorie and micronutrient requirements has set him apart. First-team player Jan Vertonghen has been so impressed with Racey's food that he has requested him to make specific meals for him.
In total, Racey has worked at 16 restaurants across the stadium, quickly getting to grips with the new state-of-the-art equipment and single-handedly taking charge of the player's lounge.
Racey is praised for being an extremely hardworking and enthusiastic member of the team who is willing to learn and share the skills he develops. His NVQ trainer Darren Jackson of Remit said: "Nathan shows good listening, understanding and excellent technical skills. His enthusiasm and single-mindedness set him apart."
Always keen to rise to a challenge, Racey cooked a complex monkfish dish he had never previously cooked for the public for 120 covers at the first match following the completion of the stadium. And at the launch of the Tunnel Club, he ran the grill section, having costed menus and researched dishes, when he cooked steaks to order for 104 covers.
In just over 12 months at Tottenham Hotspur, Racey has not only learned technical skills, but he has also grown in confidence as a person and a team player, displaying leadership and creativity. Working in the fast-paced environment of stadia catering – especially one as big and diverse as Tottenham's – can be tough, but Racey has taken it in his stride, excelled and matured.
What the judges said
"Nathan embodies the spirit of what an apprentice should be: working in various environments, he demonstrates a fantastic positive attitude and drive that is evidently appreciated by his mentors."
Charlotte Hutchings, people director, Gather & Gather
"Nathan came out on top due to the hugely challenging and demanding nature of a brand new stadium. He has excelled in the different tasks he's been given and shows what a great chef he will be in the future."
Mark Philpott, chairman, Vacherin
"Nathan has embraced the incredible opportunity he's been given and through his enthusiasm, incredible focus and dedication, not only has he excelled in his apprenticeship, but also grabbed every opportunity to learn, exceed and develop his skills and knowledge."
Anne Pierce, chief executive, Springboard
Dean Crawford Gather & Gather
Kathleen Davie Chartwells
George Pulfer Restaurant Associates
Nathan Racey Levy UK
Esther Smith BaxterStorey
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