David flies the flag for Wales at Sodexo Chef of the Year 2019
Posted by |In Industry Insight |
The Tillery Valley Foods development chef has learned a whole new dimension to meal production since joining the team five years ago, but as a finalist in this year’s Sodexo Chef of the Year competition he’s proved he’s never lost his passion for food.
Once described by Marco Pierre White as “probably the best chef in Cardiff”, David’s own development journey could have been written in the stars, coming as he does from a family of bakers, confectioners and hoteliers.
“I just love food,” said David, who born in Scully, just outside Cardiff. “Growing up, rather than playing out in the garden I’d always be helping to prepare lunch.”
When he started a course at catering college in Barry aged 16, David worked part-time in a local pub. “I’m 41 now and I’ve never looked back.”
You only need take a look at David’s extensive CV to see why.
Having joined Thistle Hotels’ trainee management scheme straight from college he quickly realised that it was the kitchen where he was keen to make his mark. So he took a job with Thistle in a country hotel near Edinburgh before transferring to the Lake District to work at the Prince of Wales hotel. When Hilton opened a new 5-star hotel in Cardiff, David moved back to Wales.
“After three years, it felt right to push myself and I moved again, this time to the Cotswolds to work at the Cotswold House Hotel under head chef Alan Dann,” said David. “Alan had been awarded a Michelin star at a previous establishment and had been trained by the Roux brothers at the famous Waterside Inn in Bray.”
He them moved to work under Simon Hulstone – a National Chef of the Year winner – at The Elephant restaurant in Torquay, with his chef wife Farah, who he had met at Cotswold House Hotel. “In time, the restaurant was awarded two rosettes and a Michelin star,” said David.
His first role as a head chef came at another independent hotel, the Premier Cru in Torquay. “When our son Joshua arrived, I wanted to go closer to home and I moved to Barry to work at the Blue Anchor Inn, a very traditional restaurant-pub. We got some good reviews from local newspapers that helped to spread the word.”
It was during his next job – at the Mulberry Street restaurant in Cardiff – that he caught the eye of Marco Pierre White, when the restaurant entered a regional heat of the TV competition Kitchen Wars.
So how did David make the move from hotels and restaurants to Sodexo?
“My father was a development baker and I wanted to try to get into a similar role. When a job came up at Tillery Valley Foods in 2013, I went for it. It’s given me even more experience than I expected. It has pushed me to my limits, looking at things like nutrition and every aspect of the production of food.”
Learning processes, paperwork and project work has been a key of his personal development, along with meeting the challenge of creating attractive, tasty meals which have to meet nutritional guidelines within a budget.
David is quick to compliment the support he has received from new product development manager, Fiona Wilcock, and development chef technologist, Jane Williams. “I’ve gained so much knowledge from them,” he said. “You don’t have the pressure of serving people within a certain time but you have different deadlines to meet to get products launched.”
Competition wise, David knows what’s needed at the Sodexo Chef of the Year as he competed two years ago and finished in third place.
In 2017, he mentored a FutureChef student who came second in the Welsh regional final and he is looking to get involved again this year. “I’m very keen to help young people move up in the industry,” he said.
David is pictured competing at 2017’s competition.
The Sodexo Chef of the Year 2019 final takes place at 12:20pm on Tuesday 22 January. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #SodexoChef19.
Search our latest Chef vacancies here and be the next Sodexo Chef of the Year