World Vegan Month

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Today marks the start of World Vegan Month, a celebration of how far veganism has come. Adopting and maintaining a plant-based diet can often be a challenge, which is why Chris Ince, Chef Director, has shared his insight into the adoption of veganism.

Throughout the month, we will also be sharing various plant-based recipes for inspiration, as many of us want to eat less meat but struggle to make the changes.

1 in 8 people now choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Many are completely happy with this choice, and they do it for ethical reasons, environmental ones, or for the much talked about health benefits.

For all the reasons previously mentioned, I really should eat less meat but changing an old habit can often be challenging. I’m not alone – many of us know that we have to approach things differently but need a bit of help.

Losing the labels is the first step. All too often these vegan dishes occupy a special place on the menu, usually somewhere near the bottom. Despite recent massive improvements in quality and efforts at re-branding to ‘plant-based’ food, the vegan option still hasn’t shaken off the stigma of being the food that plays second fiddle to the ‘hero’ meat dish. It needs to be brought into the mainstream offering.

Equally as important is not to change too much too quickly. As contract caterers we often say that our main competition is the high street – and yet we are not the high street. The key difference is that in many of our restaurants, we have served the same customers every breakfast and lunchtime for years. They won’t thank us for doing away with the buttermilk fried chicken and bringing in the new plant-based alternative overnight.

As with most things, incremental changes are a way to go. In many favourite dishes (soups, stir-fries, rice and noodle dishes), it’s entirely possible to replace some of the meat element with enhanced vegetable content. It’s not deception – we have to lose that mindset, it’s just a great nutritious plate of food. Although it’s not entirely meat-free, it’s lessening our reliance on animal protein, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.

Most importantly, eating less meat requires catering companies and chef’s up and down the land to believe the message. It’s a fundamental cultural shift that needs to happen in many of our organisations. Those of us who have cooked for many years and consider ourselves ‘old school’ need to re-wire our brains and think differently. Delicious meat-free foods must be at the forefront of our concept developments by giving them pride of place in our restaurants.


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Exceptional regional and national dishes can be found across the British Isles, inspired by our rich history and diverse cultures. Launched in 2002, British Food Fortnight is the largest national celebration of British food and drink, it is held every autumn during the harvest festival.

In celebration of the fortnight, our sites are enjoying delicious dishes including freshly made Scotch pies, Glamorgan sausages with red onion & chilli chutney and chicken and ham pie.

We asked our Chef Director, Chris Ince, why he believes buying British is so important: “Put simply, using fresh, seasonal ingredients will always make your food taste better.

“But beyond great tasting food, by buying local you are supporting local businesses and thus the economy. There are also environmental benefits as the food has fewer miles to travel to get to your plate, by using British supplies instead of imported goods you are helping to reduce carbon emissions and protect the British countryside.”

Best of British runs throughout our business and underpins our Food Philosophy in both our Angel Hill Food Co and Academy catering services. We’ll always work with our suppliers, to ensure we can serve the freshest produce from the best British producers.

Here are some reasons we celebrate British Food:

We believe that by using high quality, locally sourced ingredients our chefs can create food of an exceptional quality whilst, also supporting the local economy and the environment. We are proud to have extensive relationships with suppliers from across the UK, from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands.


British beef is considered some of the best tasting in the world, and as a result our native British breeds are highly coveted across the world.


As one of the few countries that give consumers the option to buy outdoor reared pork, the UK is one of the world leaders in pig welfare. It also makes some of our most popular British dishes – sausages and mash, a sausage bap (or dependent where you live a cob, bridie or oggie!) and the lunchtime favourite sausage roll.


Nutritionally lamb is naturally rich in protein, it is one of the few sources of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which promotes muscle building and fat loss. Lamb also contains a plethora of other vitamins and minerals including zinc, selenium, phosphorus and iron.

Sheep farming is hugely beneficial to the environment; the extensive use of grazing helps protect rare plant and wildlife species. 


Over 40% of the meat that eaten in the UK is chicken, making it the nation’s favourite meat by far. British regulations means that poultry labelled as British is required to come from birds that have were born, reared and slaughtered in the UK.


As a mark of quality and safety, all eggs that carry the British Lion mark have been produced under the stringent requirements. If an egg is marked with the British Lion mark, it means all stages of the process have been independently checked to ensure standards are met, including salmonella vaccinations. The British Lion has now become one of the UK’s most successful food safety marks, with over 90% of the UK eggs now produced following their strict guidelines.


Milk and dairy products are important sources of several nutrients, including calcium, iodine and protein, which contribute to a nutritional diet. Milk is a fridge staple in the UK and Farming UK says 98.5% households buy liquid milk as enjoy it splashed over our cornflakes and in our tea.


From Cheddar to Cheshire, Brie to Binham Blue, and Stilton to Stinking Bishop, Britain produces a huge quantity of cheese. In fact, there are around 700 named cheeses produced in the UK, which is 100 more types of cheese than France. Many of the cheeses produced in the UK are unique and, protected foods that have been awarded PDO or PGI status.


Fish and chips is well known as an iconic British dish, but Britain has lots more to offer when it comes to seafood such as Scottish salmon, Cornish oysters and welsh mussels. Low in calories, high in protein and rich in vitamins, minerals and natural oils, fish is a hugely important part of the diet. Seafood is rich in vitamins A and D and is a fantastic source of Omega 3 fatty acids.


With the recent increase in vegetarianism and veganism, the consumption of vegetables is on the rise and we’re enjoying experimenting with new and exciting ways we can cook and eat them.

British Food Fortnight marks the shift from summer to winter, where we see new fruit and vegetables coming into season. With winter approaching, we will start seeing butternut squashes and apples becoming more readily available. Packed with vitamin C to boost our immune systems, they will help in protecting our bodies against winter colds and flu.

Second class Veg – Second class rates with a first-class taste

So called “ugly” or “wonky” veg is a huge source of food waste in the UK. It is believed that up to 25% of apples, 20% of onions and 13% of potatoes grown in the UK are thrown away for cosmetic reasons. We are proud of the range of seasonal products and “ugly veg” that would ordinarily be thrown away to create delicious dishes for our clients.

Find out more about our Ugly Veg campaign here:

“Farm shops are an excellent way to be able to find local, seasonal ingredients to enjoy. Don’t be afraid to pick up something unusual you might not recognise and, ask for advice on what you can do with it. British Food Fortnight is a great time to try something new and celebrate the regional and national flavours we are famous for,” said Chris.

Are we eating too much salt?

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Many people now know that eating too much salt is bad for their health and are looking to cut down. Taking control of your salt intake is easy. Start by reading food labels, making healthier choices and when you are preparing food at home use more herbs and spices and less ready-made stocks and sauces.

A recipe for a tastier and healthier life

Try to use more Try to use less







Low salt stock



Ready-made stock

Tomato ketchup


Soy sauce


Ready-made sauces


With the average person in the UK reported to eat 8g of salt each day. The maximum recommended daily allowance of salt is 6g for adults and children over 11 years, younger children require less.

Age Maximum daily amount of salt
<1 year old <1g salt a day
1 – 3 years 2g salt a day
4 – 6 years 3g salt a day
7 – 10 years 5g salt a day
11 years and over 6g salt a day


But I don’t add any extra salt to my food…

Even if you aren’t adding salt at the table or during cooking you could still be eating too much, as around 75% of the salt we consume has already been added to our foods by the food industry. We know that foods like ready meals and cheese can be high in salt but foods that don’t taste salty like bread and breakfast cereals, can also be a source of salt. Effervescent vitamin supplements can contain up to 1g of salt per tablet, so it’s worth considering changing to a non-effervescent tablet.

So why does this all matter?

Eating a diet that is high in salt can increase your blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is a major cause of UK mortality. It is estimated by the Department of Health that reducing population salt intakes by just 1g, could prevent 4,147 premature deaths and save the NHS £288 million every year.

Here are some top tips from our Company Nutritionist Louise Goodall on how to reduce salt in your diet:

Top Tip #1: 

We still want to eat great tasting food! Try using herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli, lemon, garlic or fresh ginger to flavour your food. Instead of reaching for the salt, experiment with different flavours.

Top Tip #2:

Make food from scratch – ready meals, processed foods and ready to use sauces are usually higher in salt. Where possible, cook your food from scratch so you know exactly how much salt is in it.

Top Tip #3:

It is important be aware that some products that don’t taste salty may contain more salt than you think. The packaging of food can help us to identify lower salt options! Take a look at the back of the packet to find out more about your food.

Top Tip #4:

Take the salt cellar off the table – out of sight means out of mind! Around 75% of the food we eat already has salt added to it. Even if you don’t add salt at the table, you could already be eating too much.

Top Tip #5:

Small tweaks to your favourite foods can make a big difference. Choose vegetable toppings on your pizza instead of pepperoni or more cheese and limit the toppings to your burger that can be high in salt e.g. bacon or cheese.

Giving back with Groundhouse

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We would like to share with you an insight into our own Coffee brand – Groundhouse, which we are delighted to call Fairtrade Certified.

Groundhouse is our own artisan coffee brand, serving small-batch, slow-roasted coffee in all its forms, from a smooth, velvety latte to a flavoursome flat white. Groundhouse was conceived to bring the excitement surrounding independent coffee culture into the workplace.

We’re proud that our coffee is sustainably grown and ethically sourced from the Capucas Coffee Cooperative (formerly COCAFELOL).

Capucas is located near San Pedro, in Honduras, the cooperative was founded in 2000 Fairtrade 1by 30 small producers but is now made up of 366 producers.
The cooperative provides processing services, financing, training and technical assistance to its members.

The co-operative is very dynamic and always is looking at ways to implement community and development projects within a sustainable framework.
Some of the main initiatives are based on food security, environmental management and funding micro-enterprises.  Among the main projects are biogas and bio-fuel generation from coffee waste, organic fertiliser and a women’s coffee roastery.

Coffee is grown under shade in an area that also contains orange, banana, pine and other kinds of trees. This means that organic coffees from the co-op
can also be certified as ‘Bird Friendly’, and there is diversity of produce. Some of these products are now finding export markets outside of Honduras.

Thanks to the Fairtrade premium the cooperative has invested in agricultural equipment and technical assistance to increase productivity and climate resilience. Additionally, Capucas have used the premium to hire travelling doctors for their remote communities and construct a library for the children. The financial safety net the premium creates has further enabled the coffee community to set up income diversification projects which include beekeeping and a composting laboratory – diversification of income and produce ensures household food security during ‘los meses flacos’, or ‘the thin months’, when there is little to no income from coffee

In addition to the Fairtrade Premium support we created an in-house giveback programme which directly invests in the Capucas communities. The current scheme will look to provide a tailored support programme in Honduras in-line with the needs of the community.

Culinary Classroom: Seafood at Billingsgate

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It’s that time of the year again; the nights are drawing in, the thermometer’s plunging and the leaves are turning. Everyone’s favourite annual event is just on the horizon – we’re talking, of course, about the latest Culinary Classroom cohort!

The course is now in its third year and there are exciting changes afoot, not least because we’ll now be joined by chefs from Catering Academy, Servest’s latest culinary acquisition. We’re delighted they’ll be with us on the course because it proves the perfect platform for collaboration  and gives our chefs a brilliant opportunity to get some insight into areas and sectors that they may not have had exposure to in the past.IMG_0219

So, we found ourselves up bright (or should that be dark?) and early to catch the traders at Billingsgate Fish Market and to immerse ourselves into the fabulous world of fish.IMG_0245

We were hosted on the day by The Seafood School at Billingsgate with the support of our seafood partners, Seafood Direct. The day began with a tour around the market itself, just as trading was wrapping up for the day (at a time when most of us are still fast asleep). We then went back to the school to grab some breakfast which was, fittingly, a huge warming pot of kedgeree.

The rest of the morning was split between two educational pieces; sustainability information from Seafood Direct and then a filleting masterclass put on by the school. Sustainability is so important to us in general, but is of utmost importance when it comes to seafood. Ensuring we have sustainable stocks is not only paramount for today, but also is greatly important for the future.


One of the pillars of our Culinary Classroom programme is to arm our chefs with new craft skills and to help fuel their passion for quality produce, and the filleting session is a prime example of that. The chance to learn and work with experts in their field allows them to bring new ideas back to their restaurants and our customers’ plates.

After the filleting masterclass, it was a chance to get into the kitchen with Rhys and Matt and to get creative – and we’ll let them explain what happened:

The chefs really excelled, producing some fantastic dishes and we can’t wait to see the impact they have back out in our business. Everyone left the session enthused and with a real desire to see what’s coming next, so watch this space!



Mushroom Forage

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A group of our chefs took to the forest this October for an autumnal mushroom forage with our fresh produce supplier, Fresh Direct. Hosted by Duncan Parsonage, Fresh Direct’s Head of Food Development, it was the perfect chance for our chefs to head out of the kitchen and get some inspiration from the great outdoors.


The day started with Duncan sharing his knowledge of all things fungal, and highlighting the dos and don’ts of mushroom picking – with an emphasis on avoiding the potential nasties! The plan was to pick as many as possible and to cook up a seasonal risotto with the fruits of our labour.


It’s great for our team to be able to work in partnership with our suppliers, working with real subject matter experts and gaining a new appreciation for the produce we work with day in, day out. With fantastic food at the absolute forefront of our business, it’s essential that we continue exploring and learning – which is exactly what a day like this is all about.


By the end of the forage, we’d managed to build up quite the stash. So there was only one thing left to do, to cook them up and and see how they taste. Duncan had brought along a camping stove, a fantastic risotto base and some homemade bread. So it was all hands on deck to prepare the mushrooms and finish off the risotto.


Here’s a simple risotto recipe for you to try at home – just don’t go foraging without expert guidance!


  • 1 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 225g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 350g arborio rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 1.2 litres hot vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 25g butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano cheese (or similar, like parmesan – we used loads!)



  1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain well. Heat the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Fry over a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add the chestnut mushrooms and fry for a further 2-3 minutes, until browned.

  2. Stir in the rice and coat in the oil. Pour in the wine and simmer, stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladleful of the stock and simmer, stirring again, until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding the stock in this way, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is plump and tender.

  3. Roughly chop the soaked porcini mushrooms and stir into the risotto, along with the parsley, butter and salt and pepper. Serve with a big handful of freshly grated Grana Padano.

  4. Enjoy!


Angel Hill at the StrEAT Food Awards

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We were delighted to find out that Piotr Krolikowski, one of our talented head chefs, was selected to compete in the finals of the 2017 B&I StrEAT Food Awards.

16 finalists went through to the live cook-off on Tuesday 28th March 2017 at the Islington Metal Works, London, and were required to cook technical and signature dishes in four heats. The technical dish was to include chicken from Love Joes, sauces and marinade from Major, and packaging from Planglow. After some deliberation, Piotr chose to make a Moroccan spiced chicken dish with cous-cous and aubergine.


For the signature dish, the chefs were given free rein so we entered in our Vietnamese-style stuffed squid with a green papaya salad and sticky rice. You can find the recipe here, trust us – it’s fantastic.

Each of the dishes were reviewed by the judging panel, consisting of key industry figures and representatives from the sponsors. The judges were looking for taste, texture, appearance and creativity. Piotr had just 40 minutes to prepare and present both of his dishes, so all eyes were on the clock.

Piotr was chosen to cook in the second heat and despite some pre-match nerves, he was calmness personified once the action got underway. Both dishes were cooked beautifully and he finished with time to spare (a whole minute of it!).


We were really proud of how well Piotr represented Angel Hill Food Co. and the dedication to his craft that he brings to his team on a daily basis. It was his first time cooking in a competition but he immediately looked at home – taking to it like a squid to water.

After Piotr had finished cooking, we had to wait until the evening to find out the results. There was a drinks and street food reception before the announcement, and so the event was a great chance for the industry to get together and do a little networking.

The winners were announced and while Piotr wasn’t amongst them this time, it was a brilliant showcase to what Angel Hill Food Co. can do. Being in the finals was great recognition of the talent we have at our disposal, he really did us proud and we’ll be back again next year!


Angel Hill at the Salon Culinaire 2017

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An exciting competition schedule throughout the year is always a key part of our training and development schedule at Angel Hill Food Co. The most committed chefs will always weave the undoubted extra workload into their already busy schedules, to make sure that they have the best possible chance of performing on the day. We’re lucky that our industry provides fantastic opportunities in that area for chefs of all levels, all ages and in all areas of foodservice. It’s also an opportunity for us to see first-hand the latest innovations and how we might introduce them into our business. We’re very lucky indeed to have chefs with the necessary work ethic to make the most of these opportunities.
IMG_3187Santosh Shetty, in his natural habitat

The Salon Culinaire (this year as part of the Great Hospitality show at the NEC) is one of the stand out events of the year. With its programme of ‘live’ finals and amazing static display categories, there really is representation from right across the industry and this is one of the reasons we’re always delighted to participate.

Make no bones about it, the judging is tough. It is to an agreed international standard that takes no account of reputation or past successes. However, we thrive on the ‘buzz’ of competition where the prospect of failure is very real and proper preparation is paramount.

This year, 5 chefs made it through to the ‘live’ finals and I’m delighted to say that every one came away with an award. Jose Lara in a Vegan challenge and Nathan Rees for pasta received merit awards. Santosh Shetty received a bronze medal in a category for lamb cookery and John Fleming and Kevan Mullen performed brilliantly to receive Silver medals and best in class for their efforts in a pairs competition sponsored by Churchill China. Great efforts all round and congratulations to all those chefs, especially as only Nathan had competed before in this very stressful environment.
John Fleming and Kevan Mullen, getting ready for battle.

What’s also very clear is that they cannot achieve this on their own. Jon Whittle was a great help, as always; liaising with sponsors, equipment suppliers and the salon itself to ensure that everything was as stress-free as possible for our chefs on the day. These chefs have busy kitchens to run and rely on the support of the rest of the onsite team, from the porters to the catering managers in order to prepare properly. Rhys and Matt have also been brilliant mentors, offering practical help and advice throughout the process. I’d like to thank all involved, I know that the chefs are extremely grateful.

So what now? Well it’s back to the day job with a bit more of a spring in the step and a few good ideas in the back pocket on how we can continue to improve our service day in, day out.
Jose Lara and Chris Ince
Santosh, competing
Jose’s merit-winning vegan dish

Barista Academy: The Forage

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Our Groundhouse Academy baristas assembled on a cold winter’s morning – ahead of a day that would encapsulate, enhance, and reinforce the skills and understanding they had developed of delivering quality, hand-crafted coffee but also the essence of artisan coffee culture.

Graziano, our coffee mentor, headed the tour of some of London’s very best coffee houses, giving our Academy baristas the opportunity to experience first-hand the essence of the environment and coffee service culture that Groundhouse reflects within the business.


From the hustle and bustle of Caravan in Kings Cross – where we witnessed a mind blowing range of coffee choices in a setting that reinforced that quality coffee is not exclusively for aficionados, to Kaffiene in Holborn where we indulged in the menu of complimentary artisan bakery products along with their multi-award winning coffees.

As we sauntered around these and many more coffee shops in  central and west London, the Academy baristas immersed themselves in the experience; tasting, recognising and defining a diverse selection of coffee blends and origins – and having the opportunity to experience and appreciate  a range of on-trend alternative brewing methods such as chemex, syphons, and pour over.


Engaging with industry experts really highlighted how far our baristas had developed with their knowledge of great coffee. Delving into the London coffee scene and holding conversations about craft methods and practices with like-minded peers.

Throughout the day they showed the passion, hunger for and grasp of the cultural knowledge, that shows not only how far our baristas had come from their first training session (10 steps for the perfect espresso), but also emphasises how Groundhouse baristas are set out from the rest.


We, as a business, can’t wait to see our baristas hone their skills and knowledge, sharing it with the rest of the team and keeping Groundhouse firmly at the forefront of artisan coffee experiences.

An Angel Hill Xmas: The Fowl

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Christmas Fowl

Bronze turkey has the best flavour. Choose a plump-looking bird and if you would like leftovers, allow 350g-450g per person for birds up to 4.5kg and 200g-350g for birds over 4.5kg.

Goose makes a rich-flavoured alternative to turkey. Choose a plump breasted bird. If stuffed, a 5-5.5kg goose will serve eight people. When roasting, drain off the excess fat at regular intervals and save for scrumptious roast potatoes cooked with rosemary and whole garlic cloves. Goose tastes wonderful when partnered with apple, prunes, sausagemeat or spiced red cabbage.

Grey-legged English partridge has a lovely delicate flavour. Allow one bird per person and roast, basting with lemony butter. Serve with game chips and watercress.

Pheasant is ideal for one or two people – roast two birds if you would like leftovers. Wipe clean before roasting, encase in a streaky bacon jacket and baste with butter. It is delicious eaten with bread sauce or fried breadcrumbs, clear gravy, apple and rowanberry, or redcurrant jelly.

Foolproof turkey


1 turkey (defrosted, if frozen)
1 lemon, cut into quarters
A large roasting pan of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and sage
40g unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5.
Wipe the turkey inside and out with kitchen roll, removing the giblets if it has them. Put the lemon and herbs inside the bird, weigh it, and calculate the cooking time (see below). Put the turkey in a sturdy roasting pan, brush with the butter and season well. Loosely cover with foil refrigerate.

Christmas day

Cook for the calculated time, basting now and then to prevent drying. Thirty minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil so the bird can brown.

At the end of the cooking time, check if the bird is cooked and insert a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear, the bird is cooked. If there is any pink in the juices, return the turkey to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the turkey to a hot serving plate and leave to stand for 15-30 minutes, covered with foil, before carving.

Sizes and Times

To calculate cooking time, allow 45 minutes per kg. The following is a good guide to the size of bird you’ll need:

2-2.8kg 5 servings
3-3.8kg 6 servings
4-4.8kg 8 servings
4.6-5.8kg 12 servings
6-6.8kg 14 servings
7-7.8kg 20 servings

It is very important to get your timings right; too long and you’ll end up with dry inedible turkey, too short and you’ll be giving the gift of food poisoning. But don’t worry, stick to the guide and you’ll be fine!

If you buy a frozen turkey, defrost it completely in a cool room, or the fridge. It is completely defrosted when the cavity is free of ice crystals. The following is a guide to minimum defrosting times in a cool room. Double the time for defrosting in the fridge.

2-4kg 20 hours
4-5kg 22-24hours
5-7kg 24-28hours
8-9kg 40-48hours

Turkey Tips
• Order your turkey as early as possible
• Make sure the turkey will fit in your oven before ordering it. A turkey of up to 7kg will generally fit into a standard main oven.
• If the turkey comes with giblets, use them to make stock for the gravy.
• If your fridge is too small to fit the turkey in, put it into a cardboard box with a couple of ice packs and keep in a cool, safe place such as a garage or shed.
• If you’re using a large bird, make sure the legs are not trussed too tightly or the cooking may take longer.
• Any leftover turkey should be refrigerated and eaten within 2 days. If you’re using it in a cooked dish, such as a curry, make sure it is thoroughly reheated, until piping hot.

Angel Hill Food Co at the 2016 FSM Awards

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The FSM award show is an annual event held to recognise excellence across the contract catering industry. The 2016 show was held at the Lancaster Hotel in London and various companies within the industry were invited to provide a course for the guests, with Angel Hill Food Co doing the canapés for the reception.


Once the invitation came in, our development team sprang into action and started to plot our plan of action. Chris, Rhys and Matt wanted to showcase two of the most important things to us; the awesome people we have within our business and their dedication for exceptional food. So they decided that hand-caught River Test trout, from the fantastic Chalk Stream Foods, would be centrepiece of the food offering and that our Culinary Classroom chefs would be the team delivering it.

In the video below, Chris walks us through some of the thought processes behind everything.


The awards show was held on a Monday, so there was a busy weekend of preparation before the big event. The team were fantastically dedicated and pulled out all the stops in ensuring the evening went off without a hitch. With thousands of blinis, bites and skewers to be made, it wasn’t for the fainthearted!

We also decided to put a slight twist on the canape reception, by having a live table where guests could build their own canapés or have freshly carved trout gravadlax. This allowed our Culinary Classroom chefs to interact with the guests, chat about the provenance of the dishes and to experience the buzz of the show. It also mirrors our Chef Theatre offer, which has gone down so well in our restaurants.


The results of all of this were absolutely staggering, and everyone involved with Angel Hill Food Co were immensely proud of the chefs and their flawless execution on the night. The canapés received loads of positive feedback from the guests and it served as a brilliant way to introduce Angel Hill Food Co to the industry as a whole.

We’ll let Chris, our Chef Director, have the final word.

What the team delivered last night in terms of quality does them a huge amount of credit. It was our first ‘outing’ as a new catering brand in front the whole of our industry, competitors and customers alike. The stakes were really very high and they delivered above and beyond expectation. Their interaction with the other chef teams, willingness to get involved and professionalism overall was outstanding. The hotel are delighted and I’ve just received an email from them inviting us back next year!

img_2888-minWe can’t say better than that! A huge well done to the team, it really was fantastic.

The Adventurist – welcome to the jungle

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Welcome to the jungle!

On November 3rd, our operations team descended upon London to take part in the inaugural Adventurist competition. The concept was cooked up by Regional Operations Director, Robert Jessey and involved our unique take on that British business TV institution – The Apprentice.

Those of you who watch the programme will undoubtedly remember the task where the budding Apprentices have to race around London looking for various weird and wonderful things, and that was exactly the blueprint for our team-building day. Our operations team, from Operations Managers to members of the support team came from far and wide to spend the day together; something that with our national reach is a logistical challenge in of itself.


Our team were split into four teams and were assigned two chaperones from the Senior Management Team to ensure that everything was above board and shipshape. The first task was to get names for the teams, so, in typical Apprentice style, we ended up with; Team Dominate, Team Rumble in the Jungle, Team Jurassic and Team Four Corners.

The teams were given a list of tasks, with a differing point value attached to each one. There were some big points on offer for getting on television or radio, for example, less so for grabbing a photo of different tube station signs. There were also some red herrings thrown in there, as one team found out by waiting quite some time for Tower Bridge to open up! Strategy also played a key role, with a meagre amount of points on offer for going as far west as the tube goes, it wasn’t a simple matter of working down the list and ticking things off.


Good teamwork, solid logical planning and time management were the keys to success; exactly the type of skills needed in our line of work. So, while the day was a great deal of fun for everyone concerned, there was also a very real lesson to be learned from the day’s activities.

Once everyone was back at the designated meeting point, and with a pre-planned shortening of the deadline having been imposed by the chaperones, there was a full debrief to go over the strategy and to evaluate the teams’ performance – and add up all the points, of course. Following this, there was a ‘boardroom’ style evaluation. Luckily, Lord Sugar’s index finger and famous phrase remained confined to the television screen and everyone left the room still in their job!


John Hamill, our Managing Director, then gave a talk to the team, emphasising the value of the day and underlining the principles that we can take back to our day-to-day roles. It was the perfect end to a hectic but thoroughly enjoyable session, with combined walking distances well into the hundreds of miles, certainly time for a bit of R&R. So the team decamped to Brick Lane for a well earned rest, a curry and a mingle; the cherry on top of a productive and exciting day.

It was great for everyone to be able to get together and, for the newer members of the team, put a face to the name and have a chat with people they’d only ‘met’ via email. With such busy day-to-day roles, encompassing the entirety of the UK, it’s absolutely vital to bring the team together on a regular basis and continue to develop and refine the teamwork needed to successfully deliver complex contracts for our clients.


The main question of the day? I wonder what they’ll come up with next..

Brands and Monty Python

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Brands and Monty Python

‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ Which movie was that from? I’ll give you the answer, and why it’s important in just a little while.

Like you I’m sure, my childhood memory is filled with brands like Pan Am, C & A, Woolworths and Radio Rentals. All brands that I remember but are no longer around. Some have stood the test of time; Daz, Skips, Monster Munch and Converse. Of course, I didn’t know they were brands. I didn’t much think about them at all, but all these years later I remember them well. I even remember some fondly. Although I’m not sure remembering washing powder fondly is normal but, nonetheless, I do.

What I’m saying, I suppose, is brands matter. They are more than just a name or a logo, they are a way of communicating values. They conjure up images and affect how we view things, how we feel about things. They can be the difference between a lifetime’s loyalty to one product or not. My in-laws won’t hear of going anywhere but John Lewis, even for the smallest purchase. They are loyal and rightly so. They are what Ken Blanchard calls “Raving Fans” Here’s a few reasons why:

  • They have grown to trust the brand name and everything associated with it
  • They know they get good value, not low prices, good value
  • They identify with the people serving them. They care about them and what they need
  • If they don’t like it, they can take it back. Their business is more important than one transaction

Learning from the best

When we looked at rebranding our catering offer for business and industry, we considered what it was we were trying to do. What were our key drivers and goals? Well, for me it was about our customers seeing us in the right light, clearly seeing the elements of our offer and its relevance to them.  So how on earth were we going to find out? One of our team came up with the bright idea of asking them, so we did. Not surveys, just talking. The four key elements that were most important to them were:

  • Being vigilant in what goes in their food
  • Delivering good value. A fair price for great food and service
  • Trusting that the people that serve them every day will have their best interests at heart
  • If it’s not right, fix it quickly

Sound familiar? The alignment with John Lewis is not a coincidence. Trust is everything.

So, Angel Hill Food Co. was born out of our desire to show our customers that we get what is important to them, through our branding and our story. If we can get anywhere near what John Lewis means to my in-laws, I’ll be a happy man.

The Life of Brian

At the top I asked, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ Well, the movie The Life of Brian was released on the day before my thirteenth birthday, I remember it vividly. My mates and I had been awaiting this event like it was the actual second coming. On the face of it, a film about a bloke called Brian being mistaken for The Messiah may not have spiked the interest of my rabble. We were comedy wise and pretty hard to please. But this was Monty Python, and boy were we big fans. We were loyal to a fault. Every new episode of the TV program was received with raptures, gathering in the playground the next morning to proclaim how hilarious it was and how much we loved it. In truth, we probably didn’t understand much of the humour but had come to trust Monty Python. If they said it, it had to be funny, whether we laughed or not. This is the very model of a brand, creating loyalty and trust in a target market. John Cleese and co, had us before the Pearl & Dean credits rolled. It remains my favourite movie of all time.

By the way, the answer to the question is; the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation… Oh you know the script.

5 tips when training for a marathon

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I’m in training to run a marathon. If you are doing something like that, you also need to blog, do a blog, be a blogger. It’s just the done thing. Now it seems, I’m all over that.

Run, just run

Because you can, you know. When I started running I struggled to get five minutes under my belt. The next time it was 6 minutes, then 7. Within a month, I was doing 5k, 3 times a week. Just run.

Get gear

The gear is good, it helps you feel better and helps you measure how you’re doing. Forest Gump didn’t have a Tom Tom Runner and just got on with it, but I think he would have been more satisfied had he had one of those bad boys. What I have learned, though, is that anyone can run. Anyone can do this most life affirming activity and good God, it makes you feel good. I’ve gone from struggling with five minutes to running a half marathon and picking up the pace in the last mile. I am truly amazed at what’s possible.

Do stuff together

I’m injured right now, so is my running buddy, who is also my wife, Lisa. She’s tough, she’ll run through pain. We’ve learned that the pain goes away. Pain is there for a reason but you’ll get over it. Running with someone gives you a shared experience too. That’s good. Supporting each other and all that is great but more importantly, achieving things together that otherwise seemed out of your reach, that’s incomparable.

Find inspiration

We’re running a marathon in Florence in four weeks. My friend, C-J Green, inspired me to do this after she ran London having had significant challenges to do so. She made me feel that we can all do things that seem impossible, if we set our mind to it. I’m running this race in memory of my best friend who died of cancer when we were teenagers. Peter Tristram was and is my motivation. He left us too early. Selfish git.


At the point when I started training. the first 10 minutes of running was really hard. I used to want to give up and a few times I did, that’s OK. Now I’m doing better. I’ve come to learn that most of it is in the mind. Believe you will get though the pain and you will. Whatever happens I know we’ll all make it. If I look back to when I first started on this journey, I would never have believed I could have made such progress. I seriously encourage you to believe in yourself, come on, get your act together. It really does feel good to do more than you thought you could. Just say to yourself, yes I can do this. You will be amazed and very proud at what you can achieve.

Future Leader meets Food Co

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In this guest blog James Stephenson-Wall, part of the Future Leader programme, tells us all about his time with us and the experiences he gained.

As I look back at the last 3 months’ of the Future Leader Programme, of which I spent in the catering division, I realise how much I’ve learnt and how grateful I am for so many invaluable experiences. Throughout my rotation I have been afforded such a hands on experience, that I’ve had no option but to learn quickly and really get stuck in.

The teams I’ve met along the way have such unrivalled passion for what they do, and it was so infectious, that I completely bought into the Food Co ethos. The team spirit and camaraderie made my transition from the Security division a seamless one, I felt right at home from the off.

The first half of my rotation was based at a site in Felixstowe, with a rather industrial feel, I was initially struck by the speed of breakfast service. The customers absolutely love their breakfasts, and the team serve them up at a rate of knots. The breakfast service is a time when you can definitely feel the heat of the kitchen, but it was such a buzz getting a good service out, with a great sense of accomplishment when the last breakfast of the day was served. From that point forward, I had exposure to all the tasks that arise within a busy kitchen; from food preparation, serving and working the EPOS system to the banking, bookwork, health & safety, stock control and wages.


I was afforded real responsibility during my rotation and none more so than when I organised a theme day on site, which was a real highlight. The American Themed Day went really well with Chilli Dogs, BBQ Pulled Pork, Spicy Wedges and Chilli & Cheese Corn Bread just a few of the delicious items on offer. I planned, priced up, advertised, prepped, cooked and served on the day itself. The customers enjoyed the food, the takings were positive and it was a great to put my learnings into practice.

A special mention has to go to the Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies, which were a fantastic idea from Darren, the Head Chef at Felixstowe. They were suitably devoured by the customers and catering team alike.


Leaving Felixstowe behind, I spent the 2nd half of my catering rotation at a large office complex in Cambridge. Although the basic set of principles I had picked up in Felixstowe were applicable, the site had its own unique set of challenges. With only a limited breakfast offering, the focus was on the lunch service, wherein 600 people are served each and every day.  It really took some getting used to; serving 600 people in less than 2 hours was such an adrenaline rush. The team there do such an incredible job, making the very difficult look very easy. Serving that volume of people, every day, puts a massive strain on the facilities and the team, but everyone is so well drilled and there’s such a great team spirit, that service is always out on time and to a very high standard.


During my time at Cambridge I delivered training to each member of the team on aspects such as COSHH, fire & electrical safety and basic food hygiene. I completed several team briefings detailing the day’s service, the previous day’s performance, areas for the team to focus on and allergens. A key area of learning throughout my time in catering has been understanding the commercial approach that the catering units take. I’m now appreciative of the key decisions and processes in place as well as the marketing and promotions that all serve to drive profitability.


On top of the time on site, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of our key suppliers and build an awareness of the catering supply chain. I also attended a fantastic barista training day put on by our coffee partner; who knew there were so many variables to control when making a cup of coffee? The day was truly insightful, brought to light when I witnessed the launch of our new coffee brand Groundhouse. Judging by the taste and early feedback, I’m sure the Groundhouse offering will be a massive success.

A massive ‘thank you’ to both Nicky and Sandra, the two Catering Managers who were pivotal in providing me with such a fantastic experience over the past 3 months. It has been a privilege to work in such a passionate division of the Servest business and I will take the skills and confidence gained with me on the remainder of my Future Leader journey.

Barista Academy: Milk Management & Latte Art

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Barista Academy – Milk Management & Latte Art

As our Groundhouse Academy journey continues, eight of Servest’s finest baristas met at the iconic coffee training venue in Vauxhall, London.

So far, this handpicked Ground Crew have had their coffee craft skills honed on the art of serving consistently great espressos and widening their knowledge of producing and managing beans. This day was focused upon the other critical ingredient in what makes a great cup of Groundhouse coffee – the milk.

Under the watchful eye and guidance of our international competition winning maestro trainers, the Ground Crew were taken on the journey of milk processing and management, learning the true science of how this impacts upon the make-up of serving cappuccinos and lattes.

The next step was focusing on steaming and pouring; two key steps in the recipe of what makes sure that the Groundhouse coffee portfolio stands out from the rest. In an instant, our crew were showing the passion and understanding we’ve come to expect with the production of silky, glossy foamed milk all round.

Finally the highlight of the day, and a real opportunity to see just why our baristas stand out from the rest; we embarked upon the creative and craft skills, and know-how of producing not just great tasting but also great looking coffee.

The balance of temperature, texturing, pouring speed and position led to the creation of some truly amazing looking latte art. It was so impressive to see yet again the craft skills of the Ground Crew move up yet another level. On to the next one!

Matt Vernon: What got me into cooking

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What got me into cooking

I decided to do A-levels when I finished school – maths and physics – very boring stuff, as I’ve always been a very passionate and creative person. After 2 years of skipping class to do more exciting things, I found myself at 18 not knowing what I wanted to do for a career. I had always had a bit flair for cooking, which I’d done at GCSE level (and got top marks!), but was told by teachers is wasn’t a good career choice (what do they know?!).

So after taking a gap year travelling and doing odd jobs, I heard an advert for Birmingham College of Food on the radio and remember thinking that I should check it out. I went to the open day and enrolled myself, they had some really welcoming chef lecturers and I felt at home straight away. They asked me what I wanted to be and told me that I had the A-levels to do a degree course in hotel management. I told them I wanted to be a chef and they put me on the 2 year NVQ course – in hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad choice after all!

I spent 2 of the best years of my life at the college, learning from the very best Michelin-starred chefs and I felt that cheffing is exactly what I was meant to be. I completed the NVQ course and a chef lecturer told me of a potential job at Raymond Blanc’s restaurant. I couldn’t wait to start work in a professional kitchen, so I headed down there, did a trial and got my first chef’s job.

What got me to where I am now with Servest

I first came into contact with Servest whilst working at a Football Club in the directors’ kitchen. A Servest catering manager saw that I was a talented, passionate chef and gave me the opportunity to work at Worcester Bosch as the hospitality chef. I spent my time there implementing a lot of new ideas and concepts that I had learnt along the way, from working in high volume al a carte restaurants, 5 star hotels and gastro pubs. Whilst working at Worcester Bosch I met Chris Ince, our Chef Director, we clicked instantly and so I got involved with some of the projects he was working on. As the company grew larger there was a need for another development chef on the team, which I was offered by Chris and only too happy to accept. I have been working under Chris for almost a year now, this is a perfect role me as it allows me to be at the forefront of food development and work with many other chefs in all of our units and implement new concepts across the board – so exciting.


I am a very keen golfer and like to play almost every week, even in our harsh winter conditions, and summer ones too! I love travelling the globe and going on holiday to exotic locations (when I get time off!), one of my favourite things to see and do is experience the food in other countries, after a recent trip to South Africa I discovered a whole new range of ingredients, dishes and a culture built around food, especially their fantastic wines and vineyards.

What I’ll be doing in these blogs is sharing some of my expertise with you by writing a topical blog and recipe that you can try at home. Give them a shot, I’m sure you won’t leave hungry!

Plum Tarte Tatin with Honeycomb Ice Cream (serves 8)

A recipe very close to my heart, using the best in season British plums, this dessert combines hot spiced plums with a cold, easy to make, homemade ice cream

For the honeycomb

For the ice cream

  • 200ml double cream, whipped until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed
  • 1 tbsp clear honey

For the tarte tatin

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • flour, for dusting
  • 375g ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 20 plums, stone removed and cut into halves
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 star anis
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon


  1. For the honeycomb, place the sugar, honey, glucose and water into a heavy-based pan, insert a sugar thermometer and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet. When the mixture reaches 160C, which is a light caramel, remove from the heat.
  2. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in quickly, then immediately pour the mixture onto the greased baking sheet – it will start to bubble up straightaway. Leave to cool.
  3. When the honeycomb has cooled completely, break it up into small pieces (don’t worry – you’ll have plenty leftover to eat!)
  4. For the ice cream, place the whipped cream into a large bowl and fold in the honey and about two large handfuls of the broken honeycomb.
  5. Pour the mixture into a container and place into the freezer to set for about 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  7. For the tarte tatin, place the sugar into an ovenproof pan (approx 20cm) and heat gently without stirring until it turns golden brown. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir in gently.
  8. Place the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut out a circle slightly larger than the pan.
  9. Place the plums flesh-side down into the pan with the caramel and add the cinnamon, star anis and vanilla. Cover the plums and caramel mixture with the pastry and tuck the edges down the side of the pan.
  10. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to rest for a minute before turning it out. To do this, place a plate on top of the pan and invert so that the tart slips out, pastry to the base, plums on top.
  12. Serve the tarte tatin warm with a scoop of the honeycomb and ice cream
  13. Enjoy with a glass of dry white Muscat!

Barista Academy: First Session

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Barista Academy: First Session

Carefully hand-picked and selected for their quality, and to ensure our customers have a memorable coffee experience.

Well yes, that’s the Groundhouse coffee beans…but it equally applies to our exceptional Barista Academy Ground Crew.

We had an overwhelming response to applications to join our illustrious Ground Crew, with selection days and assessments held to pick the cream of the crop. And we wasn’t just looking for potential excellence in craft skills. This Crew needed to show a passion and engagement in delivering great service, an understanding of artisan coffee culture, and what makes Groundhouse different from other unmentionable coffee brands!

The chosen seven embarked on their Barista Academy journey with an initial day of intense and focused training on consistently delivering a quality espresso, using a quality bean. The fundamental cornerstone of what makes a Groundhouse coffee different to most existing coffee offers.

The first critical stage of this craft focused training being the 10 steps to a perfect espresso. Under the guidance and tuition of a maestro extraordinaire, the Crew learned and developed an understanding of ensuring grind, extraction, and tampering (to name but 3!), were delivered with a sense of craft and an uncompromising approach to consistent quality.

These skills in isolation would deliver a great coffee, but Groundhouse is more than just about coffee. It’s a wider customer experience. Our Ground Crew showed a passion to know much more, and a desire to be able to deliver a memorable experience to every customer.

So the day continued with tuition on a wide range of topics; the origin of our beans, the way they are picked, every single stage of the process from field to cup! The knowledge and engagement, learning and understanding from the Ground Crew was beyond expectations.

The Groundhouse Barista Academy. It’s great to know that it’s not just our coffee that’s going to deliver a unique and memorable customer experience.

Food Heroes: Inaugural Session

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Food Heroes Inaugural Session


Food Heroes has been developed by Rhys Richardson, Angel Hill Food Co Development Chef, to help nurture some of the great talent we have within the business. The aim of the course is to provide both practical and classroom-based skills to enable the chefs to creatively contribute to the development of Angel Hill’s food offer. There will be a heavy emphasis on craft skill, seasonality and future trends. Upon completion of the course, the chefs will receive and ILM accredited award and will be in a prime position to help support the chef development team.

resized_0000_img_1958The first session kicked off on Thursday 8th September and was a classroom-based module designed to help the chefs hone their creative skills in a development environment. It was the first time they’d got together, but they quickly built up a great rapport as they were paired and grouped up to complete the various activities throughout the day. It was fast-paced and interactive, with a variety of different topics and learning points.


The food element of the day was for two teams to come up with a healthy salad option; both boxed and plated. Chris Ince, Chef Director, put together an identical selection of ingredients for the two teams to use and it was up to them to come up with something great. Aside from the more conventional salad items, Chalk Stream Foods supplied two sides of beautiful hot and cold smoked trout for the chefs to experiment with.

resized_0007_img_1901The day was a great start to what promises to be a fantastic course. The next session will be a food safari around London – with Park Ranger Rhys leading the way! We can’t wait.

Groundhouse: An Introduction

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“Let’s meet for a coffee in London, we’ll go for a forage”. A phone call from Chris Thompson – a meeting in a Holborn coffee house, two flat whites later…..and I was introduced to Groundhouse and immersed into a new and exciting world of Artisan coffee culture.

So what makes it so different? Coffee is something you can get everywhere, right? Go into a service station – press a button on a machine, hey presto you have a cappuccino. Well after our forage, I soon realised that Artisan coffee isn’t about just getting a coffee – it’s not a functional thing, it’s a cultural experience delivered through craft, it’s accessible to all, it turns getting a coffee into an experience. The buzz, the engagement from the barista, the environment – look around the coffee house, they’re all their business people, couples, families, students across all demographics – all realising that coffee culture is not what we come to now expect from the big brands on the high street… can be, and is so much more.

And then I realised, it became apparent…..soon Chris explained to me that we can bring this Artisan coffee culture, this exciting new world – into the workplace and beyond – with Groundhouse.

Aside from what I have since learned about Groundhouse’s unique blend of handpicked beans, the small batch roast which gives it’s distinct taste profile….our brand values and proposition mean our customers will not be getting “just a cappuccino”…instead we deliver an entire experience – expertise, craft skill, the ability to get coffee and fabulous food under one roof. Bringing enjoyment alive with taste, in a relaxed and friendly yet confident environment. industry. Certainly not what you find in your typical coffee service experience in the workplace.

And so, to the next stage of our journey, the Groundhouse Barista Academy – ensuring our baristas have the best professional training in the business, engaging them into this exciting coffee culture of Artisan food and drinks, and developing their craft skills to deliver the perfect cup of coffee every time. Check back in soon to see how our baristas are progressing on the Academy, and much more about how Groundhouse is changing our coffee culture.

Recipe: Maryland style crab cakes

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Maryland style crab cakes

It’s in the nature of cooks that while we’re using the best products of the season, we’re also looking ahead to what we can cook with next month, and the month after that, and possibly the month after that. From a personal perspective, May is the month that I anticipate most for one reason alone – we can start eating British crab again, something that continues right throughout the summer.

Crab should be avoided during the winter months as it is the breeding season. However, during the summer months, the meat is sweet and delicious, not to mention extremely versatile.

I know that most kitchens are hard pressed to make their margins and that Cornish brown crab might not be the first thing the chef thinks of when planning meals to send out at £3 a plate. But, if there was ever a product that still has a perception of luxury and that could feature as a tariff-busting, top line driving seasonal special, then perhaps crab is it.

Opinions vary on the best way to cook a crab. While the creature should be alive when you buy it, I believe it should be dead before it enters the pot. This means locating the small hole under the triangular flap on the underside of the crab and giving a screwdriver a sharp tap until it reaches the shell on the other side, then move it from side to side. Boil the crab in plenty of salted water for 15mins (for one that weighs up to 1kg). Rinse the crab off in cold water and leave to cool before going to work on extracting the meat.

The featured recipe is for Maryland crab cakes, a stunning delicacy. It’s really nothing more than white meat, loosely bound with a little egg and seasoned with English mustard powder, Worcester sauce and chopped parsley. Its most natural home in the contract environment might well be as a hot bite on a canapé menu, but consider it as part of a Friday fish offer on the mains counter. If served with a lightly toasted bun and a little dressed watercress, this would make the most delicious lunch.

Move over, the omnipresent ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich.

The brown meat also makes a brilliant lunch if spread on a thick slice of sourdough toast and served with a tomato salad.

You could of course buy packs of picked crab meat but the danger here is that the texture will be lost. What we are looking for is large nuggets of juicy sweet crab, barely held together. Not small shards of pasteurised meat bound up with too much filler to taste of anything. Best to talk to your fish supplier and see what they suggest.

Serves 10

  • 80g cream crackers
  • 800g white crab meat
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp English mustard powder
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the crackers into a blender and blitz to a fine crumb. Add this to the picked crab meat and leave to absorb the moisture for an hour. Beat together the eggs, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. Pour enough into the crab meat for it to bind together then add the seasonings, parsley and a little lemon juice. Fry in some foaming butter. Enjoy!

Culinary Classroom: HR Workshop at Premier Foods

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Culinary Classroom: HR Workshop at Premier Foods

resized_0004_img_2597As part of the chef’s managerial development, this session was based around HR with Paul Chetwynd, Servest HR Business Partner, providing his expert advice to the chefs. It was a really valuable day, because understanding the management side of things is absolutely vital for any aspiring chef manager. That Paul is such an engaging and experienced chap really put the cherry on top.


The HR part lasted for the morning and then the chefs were let loose in Premier Foods’ fantastic development kitchen. The first signs of summer were just starting and this theme seemed to run through the dishes that the guys put together. Lots of fresh vibrant flavours and colours were on display, with Chris, Rhys and Matt commenting that they thought it was the best food so far. If you have a look through the photos, we’re sure you’ll agree!


Culinary Classroom: Chocolate Workshop at Town & Country Fine Foods

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Culinary Classroom – Chocolate Workshop at Town & Country Fine Foods

This session was certainly one that piqued many people’s interest – chocolate! The Servest Culinary Classroom chefs were lucky enough to be hosted by Town & Country Fine Foods for a day focussed on our enduring love of the cocoa bean. The day was directed by Town & Country’s Sales Development Chef, Jerome Dreux. Having worked in 2 Michelin star restaurants and with over 28 years’ experience as a pastry chef, Jerome really was a font of knowledge and anything he didn’t know about chocolate probably wasn’t worth knowing. It was to be a day of two halves; the first part learning about chocolate and the science of tempering it, with the second half being a practical session.

Jerome kicked things off by running the Servest chefs through the chocolate production process, from growing the beans to producing the chocolate itself. He showed a video and added his own expertise in and answered any questions that the chefs had. From there it was straight on into the kitchen for a crash course on the different varieties of chocolate and how to temper it. Jerome started by doing a tasting course, urging the chefs to cleanse their palate often, to fully appreciate the different flavours. This section was extremely similar to a wine tasting, with Jerome providing the tasting notes and the chocolates continually rising in cocoa content. It was interesting to note that white chocolate is not in fact chocolate at all, as it contains no cocoa powder, and it’s safe to say that it isn’t Jerome’s favourite type! Some of the notes identified by the Servest chefs included caramel, tobacco and cinnamon; it was a truly fascinating and eye-opening journey into the world of chocolate.

Once the tasting was complete, Jerome moved on to the science of tempering chocolate. It is an extremely technical process, with exact temperatures needed for the chocolate and also the room itself. The room was kept at a steady 20 degrees in order to aid the process and to make sure that the marble table was kept at the right temperature. It is this level of detail that really astounded some of the Servest chefs. Once the chocolate had been correctly melted, it was time for Jerome to demonstrate how to make intricate shapes and interesting designs; something that the Culinary Classroom chefs were extremely interested in. Given Servest Catering’s vast exposure to hospitality catering, seeing Jerome in action was really inspiring for the young chefs. Sharing some of the tricks of his trade, Jerome made patterned chocolate, delicate nests and tear-drop cases, amongst others.

Just before lunch there was time for some quick product demonstrations, showing how it is possible for chefs to turn out high-class desserts in a minimal time without having a dedicated pastry chef.

After lunch, it was time for the practical session. The Town & Country development kitchen was reorganised to give the Servest chefs room to get into groups and come up with some desserts of their own. Using Town & Country’s products, each group devised some truly stunning desserts that tasted every bit as good as they looked. Chris Ince, Servest’s Chef Director and driving force behind the Culinary Classroom programme, also joined in by making some desserts to his own recipe. It’s safe to say that the resulting dish was easy on the eye and even easier on the palate! Servest had arranged for a professional photographer to come along to the session, so the last part was a chance for the Culinary Classroom chefs to be photographed with their creations.

It really was an excellent session, with many of the chefs commenting on how interesting they found the day to be. They left the day with chatting about new desserts that they could make, something that is sure to please Servest clients in the near future.


Culinary Classroom: Butchery and Meat at Fairfax Meadow

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Culinary Classroom – Butchery and meat at Fairfax Meadow

The third Culinary Classroom session was one for the carnivores; a butchery and meat day with Fairfax Meadow in Derby. The location was a bit of a respite for our northern-based chefs, having travelled south for the previous sessions. The day was to be split into three sections; we were to start by having a tour of Fairfax’s impressive facilities, then on to a practical butchery demonstration and to finish with the Servest chefs whipping up some magic in the kitchen. Being a typically brisk January day; we were all eager to get started and to see where a lot of our meat comes from.

I, like many of the chefs, had never been inside a meat production facility on the scale of the one at Fairfax; so we were all really intrigued to see the process involved. The Servest chefs use Fairfax products on a daily basis so they were fascinated to see the journey the meat took from arriving into the facility to being delivered to their units. Once we were all adorned with all the relevant Health and Safety gear, we emerged from Fairfax’s boardroom looking like extras from the latest series of CSI and were ready to embark on the tour.

We were given a guided tour and managed to take in both the automated systems and also the more manual aspects of the butchery. We were all astounded with the speed and scale of the operation, with one butcher producing over 5,500 pieces of diced meat in a day. Likewise, the automated machines were extremely impressive; with precisely cut pieces of meat flowing out of them at a steady rate. During the tour we learnt that Fairfax produced over 1.5 million pigs in blankets for Christmas last year – by hand!

We were then shown where the meat arrives from all four corners of the world, and also where it is aged. Culinary inspiration was never far away, and the Culinary Classroom chefs were discussing various menu ideas amongst themselves.

The next phase of the day was a butchery session led by Jim, Fairfax’s butchery expert. Jim did a brilliant job of explaining the various cuts he was making and showing the chefs the order in which the cuts come in. Throughout this part, he butchered a whole lamb, half a cow, and a whole pig. It was really impressive to see the skill and speed in which Jim butchered the meat, explaining the nuances along the way. Very quickly, the various animals were in their culinary component parts and ready for the kitchen.

The final part of the day was a practical session in the kitchen. The chefs grouped up into threes and were tasked with coming up with a dish per chef. Chris Ince, Servest Chef Director, had previously raided his home cupboard (which, as you can imagine, isn’t your average cupboard!) and also bought various ingredients from a supermarket on the way to the session. Essentially, it was a Servest version of Ready, Steady, Cook – minus Ainslie Harriot, the red tomatoes and green peppers, and plus a passionate bunch of chefs. Soon the kitchen was a cacophony of chopping, searing and frying, with the chefs busily preparing their dishes.

What the chefs turned out in such a short period of time, with a random selection of ingredients and with shared facilities really was remarkable. Rhys Richardson, Servest Development Chef and Blue Arrow Chef of the Year 2015, commented on how impressed he was with the standard of the food. Being that the day revolved around meat, it really was carnivore heaven. Chris Ince finished the session by quickly preparing a dish of his own, enthusing the chefs with his enthusiasm and expertise.

That brought the day to an end, with the chefs leaving Fairfax with a much better understanding, and appreciation, of the ingredients they use every day. As part of the development programme, the chefs will devise new menu ideas and recipes with inspiration drawn from this Culinary Classroom session.

Culinary Classroom: Meat-Free Workshop at Reynolds

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Culinary Classroom – Meat-Free Workshop at Reynolds

The focus of the second session was to highlight the importance of an often over-looked menu element; good old fruit & veg. We were kindly hosted by Reynolds, one of the leading fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers and wholesalers in the UK in their wonderfully appointed development kitchen at their Head Office in Waltham Cross.

Taking the lead on the day was Ian Nottage, Reynolds’ Chef Director and Diane Camp, a finalist in the 2014 National Chef of the Year competition and Reynolds’ Development Chef. It’s a wonderful sign of Servest’s and Reynolds’ continued partnership that Reynolds were willing to aid and assist in the development of Servest’s chefs.

Seeing as the day began in a kitchen, it’s probably little surprise that it started with breakfast. A wonderfully vibrant selection of fresh fruit (a simple mango and lime salad being my favourite) was paired with traditional bacon rolls. It was a perfect energiser to what would be a busy and fascinating day.

The first activity was to guess the mystery fruit and vegetables. Those of you familiar with chow chow, lotus root and shiso leaves would have been in good stead, but many of the selections would have flummoxed even the most experienced of chefs. Matt Vernon, who works on Servest’s Bosch contract, got an extremely respectable 8/11 and walked away with a delicious-looking prize basket. Ian Nottage followed up by going through the various ingredients, giving samples to taste and suggesting exciting menu ideas.

The Culinary Classroom attendees were then given a guided tour of the warehouse floor, where they were able to get inspiration from the vast array of produce stored on site. Rhys Richardson, Servest Development Chef, was especially enamoured with the broad selection of tomatoes on offer. The Culinary Classroom chefs were really excited to be able to inspect the produce and quickly realised that menu ideas were lurking round every corner.

Ian then took the group through a practical session explaining the importance of well-stored produce and also the impact of different factors on flavour. The difference in taste between a cold tomato from the fridge and one at room temperature was staggering, with the increase in temperature bringing a vastly improved flavour. Equally interesting was the chance to taste a raspberry that had been stored next to some garlic, not an experience many people were keen to repeat!

Next on the agenda was a working lunch, where the Chefs engaged in ‘Produce Lotto’. They were divided into groups, with each group randomly selecting a card with a specific vegetable on it. The task was to come up with exciting menu ideas where the vegetable was the main ingredient. Lots of great ideas came out of this session, such as; Beetroot Panna Cotta and Parsnip & Dolcelatte Soufflé.

The afternoon session brought everything together, with Diane taking the lead and cooking up some truly amazing meat-free dishes. She talked the group through her cauliflower couscous recipe and made a delicious curry served with taro root poppadums (taken from the mystery selection in the morning). The pièce de résistance was her pan-fried cauliflower ‘steak’ dish. The idea being to recreate the steak experience but using meat-free ingredients. A cauliflower ‘steak’ was pan-fried and served with a smoky cauliflower puree, the cauliflower couscous and Ian’s fantastically seasonal beetroot ketchup. It was an amazing dish that really drove home the point of the day; meat-free dishes deserve exactly the same attention as the rest of the menu.

Servest group launches culinary classroom

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Servest Group launches culinary classroom

20th May 2015

Catering provider Servest Group has launched a development programme for talented chefs in the business, who want to progress to being head chefs.

The Culinary Classroom programme will see eight existing Servest chefs embark on a 10-month programme of training from September. The sessions will be held at a variety of locations around the UK.

The chefs will spend three days working under Luke Tipping at Simpson’s Michelin star restaurant in Birmingham as well as receive training from industry leading chefs and managers.

The training sessions will encourage the chefs to develop their own ideas and each session will have a different focus such as seasonality, vegetarian cookery, menu planning, seafood cookery skills, and much more.

Their progress will be evaluated by Servest’s Chef Director Chris Ince and Development Chef Rhys Richardson. At the end of the programme, they will be presented with an ILM endorsed award in kitchen management at a graduation event.

Chris Ince, Chef Director at Servest, said: “I’m really excited about the Culinary Classroom which demonstrates our commitment to fostering our talented chefs and to ensuring a pipeline of talented future head chefs. It’s a fantastically diverse training programme, culminating with the opportunity to work with Luke Tipping, one of the most accomplished chefs in the UK.”

The Culinary Classroom programme will be marketed internally. Candidates need to demonstrate strong culinary skills, innovation, knowledge of food trends, confident and articulate communication, leadership potential, and drive and ambition.

Interested candidates are asked to get support for their application from their line manager and then complete an application. The closing date for applications is Friday, 29th May 2015.