The chef-director of LBM Food Solutions and Foodies on Tour is also the new chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs. He shares the ambitious plans for his term with Lisa Jenkins
Do you enjoy being your own boss?
I didn’t plan it that way. I was working in the City for Eaton Fine Dining and the company was acquired by ISS. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that Eaton changed. I felt we lost our food focus and I quickly knew it wasn’t right for me.
I was already doing a little bit of consultancy for some contract caterers, some menu development, food concepts, etc, and I thought – why not? It just sort of happened. It has been a challenge at times. We had a two-year-old and had just moved house, and we paid the mortgage on the credit card on occasion, but the business has gone from strength to strength. I now have 31 contracts around the world and love the diversity. LBM Food Solutions provides support with concepts, menu development, craft training and workshops.
Foodies on Tour came to life this year. We run global food education trips for chefs arranged in association with event planner McCullough Moore. We’ve just come back from our latest tour – an insider’s ‘behind-the- scenes’ visit to Disneyland Florida during its food festival.
How did your involvement with the guild begin?
I first got involved 15 years ago when I was at Eaton. I was a member of the guild and David Mulcahy and Steve Munkley collared me one day at a show and asked me to join the committee. My first role was running exhibitions and events. Back then, that meant running the Skillery at the major exhibitions. I did this for about nine years and I was then invited to be Chris Basten’s vice-chair. I accepted and I did three years as his deputy.
How early on did you start making plans for your chairmanship?
I have a book of ideas that I started before I was vice chair, and when I joined the committee I asked what the route was to being a chairman – I’m not sure how that went down!
I’ve got a three-year plan. I want to work on the basics and review our business partnerships. We have to be giving value to our partners and we need to continue to drive membership.
I want communication to be a lot better, and that means creating better internal communication among the members and the committee, but just as importantly to a wider audience, using our own magazine, our website and our media partnerships. Basically, we need a complete communications overhaul and we may employ an internal communications officer. We are looking to employ a PR company and we want to get the Craft Guild of Chefs brand out there. Not just in the trade press, but to consumers too.
The collective depth of knowledge that we have and are happy to share is priceless. We have recently done a deal with Iceland, which saw our brand as one consumers can trust. It has a new premium range that we’ve endorsed. Our logo is across its stores and potentially will be in its new TV adverts.
The final part of my plan is a bit more radical. I have begun a feasibility study into opening a Craft Guild of Chefs Centre of Excellence, preferably in London. I would like it to include a demo kitchen, a cookery school, a competition theatre, meeting rooms and boardrooms and possibly some accommodation on-site. We have 115 business partners and they could make good use of this resource. We have an incredible library that could be made available too.
What do the committee think of the plans?
I’ve set up a steering committee to see if we can do it. We need to look at the process, how much it would cost and if we could sell our existing property in Richmond.
I know I have to be realistic about this project, but with my appointed vice chair, Ian Nottage, also on board and his successor soon to be announced, we will then have a nine-year plan and that gives longevity to deliver the goal.
I am determined to have at least the feasibility study complete in my three-year term, to find a location and to raise half the funds. But I’d be happier if we could open it in that time too. The guild needs to do something forward-thinking and modern. We should be leading the way as chefs.
Did you make any changes to the committee when you became chairman?
I discovered the ‘chairman’s action’, which allowed me to make some decisions without having them ratified by the committee. I made a chairman’s action to abolish the regional roles and I disbanded the subcommittee. We’ve started afresh.
Chris laid fantastic foundations and he and Andrew made sure the guild was in a good place operationally. He also organised and celebrated our 50th anniversary celebrations, developed our magazine, Stockpot, and brought the membership administration in-house.
Talking of radical – what are the plans for the Universal Cookery and Food Festival?
Yes, we ruffled a few feathers when we launched this five years ago. About the same time the Food Development Agency came to us for some support, and while we were in the process of merging our memberships, I met John Feeney, who had this mad idea to launch a chefs’ conference in a field. It developed from there and we thought, “Why not combine it with some foraging and shooting, skinning game and farm tours?”
John presented at one of the guild’s meetings, and once he had the go ahead, Ian and I developed the concept with him. McCullough Moore got involved at a very early stage and it is a big part of the team – its managing director, Billie Moore, is our fourth founder.
The festival goes from strength to strength, but it only just about washes its face, which is a frustration. Chefs love it because we always go to a new location and we’ve kept it regional as we promised. It started in 2012 at Painshill Park, then a big top at Warbrook Park in Hampshire, then down to River Cottage in Axminster. In 2015 we went north to Vallum Farm in Newcastle upon Tyne. This year we took over Laverstoke Park in Hampshire and next year we will be in Padstow.
What are the biggest challenges facing the chef community?
Well, there is a chefs’ shortage, of course, but it’s more than that – we are missing a whole lot of quality chefs in the middle ground. We seem to have lots of young chefs coming through and lots of senior chefs, but we are missing chefs de partie.
I think this is because too many chefs are being fast-tracked and skipping the traditional stages of chef training. The route should be: second commis, first commis, demi chef de partie, chef de partie, junior sous chef, sous chef, senior sous chef, head chef and then finally exec chef or chef-patron. We seem to have lost the hierarchy system. Commis chefs aspire to be head chefs too quickly, potentially resulting in skills gaps. Perhaps we should slow the process down again. However, I once heard someone say: “It’s not that there are not enough chefs, it’s that there are too many restaurants – too many average restaurants, with average chefs, serving average food”.
The move from fine dining into more casual service is a step in the right direction in my opinion and it’s potentially a challenge for our
high-end, Michelin-starred restaurants. Is less formality the future?
Craft Guild of Chefs
Lee Maycock, chef-director, LBM Food Solutions, Hertfordshire
National vice chairman
Ian Nottage, chef-director, Reynolds Catering Supplies
Jane Jonson, stock and data control manager, Kogan Page
Matt Owens, executive pastry chef, Fusion Catering Solutions
Chris Basten, executive development chef, the Brookwood Partnership
David Foskett, professor and head of the London School of Hospitality, University
of West London
David Mulcahy, culinary director, Sodexo
Maria Drury, senior credit controller, Lewisham Plus Credit Union
• Matt Owens, executive pastry chef, Fusion Catering Solutions
• Mark Reynolds, executive head chef, Wembley Stadium
• Will Torrent, pastry chef and consultant
• Trish Caddy, chef, the Kitchen Caddy
• Hulya Erdal, chef, Made by the Chef
• Michael Eyre, product director, Jestic Foodservice Equipment
• John Feeney, culinary director Europe at Griffith Foods
• Mark Hill, executive chef, the House of Commons
• Gary Hunter, vice-principal, Westminster Kingsway College
• Steve Love, chef consultant
• Fergus Martin, head chef, Darwin College
• Steve Munkley, executive head chef, the Royal Garden Hotel
• Alan Paton, executive head chef, the Lakes restaurant, Stoke by Nayland Hotel
• Mark Reynolds, executive head chef, Wembley Stadium
• Mark Rigby, executive chef and head of foodservice innovation, Premier Foods
• Steve Scuffell, executive chef, Moran Hotels
• Darren Thompson, food development programme manager, Sodexo ILA
Lee Maycock: CV
2005-present Chef-director, LBM Food Solutions, Hertfordshire
2001-2005 Development chef, Eaton Fine Dining, London
2000-2001 Executive chef, Sacombe Park Estate, Hertfordshire
1998-2000 Head chef – group, Style Conference Centres
1993-1998 Head chef, Lucas Film and Television, California
1992-1993 Sous chef, Partners Restaurant, Surrey
1991-1992 Chef de partie, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxfordshire
1989-1991 Chef de partie, the Ritz London
1988-1989 Chef de partie, White House Hotel, Herm, Channel Islands
1987-1988 Commis chef, Woodlands Park Hotel, Cobham, Surrey