Andrew Bennett, chair of the Craft Guild of Chefs between 2018 and November 2020, passed away yesterday after a battle with prostate cancer.
Interviewed by The Caterer in April 2018, not long after taking the chair of the Guild, Bennett opened the interview with the news of his condition, and talked about the legacy he'd like to leave: "I'd like my children to be proud of me as someone who made a good living and lived their life honestly. I received an MBE in 2009 for services to hospitality and developing talent, which was a very proud moment in my life, but I'd tell anyone, 'If Bennett can get one - anyone can!'"
A statement from the Craft Guild of Chefs on Saturday read: "It is with great sadness to share that chef Andrew Bennett MBE passed away this morning, peacefully and with all his family around him.
"A much-loved chef and friend to many, he had a successful and full career, mentored many people along their chosen path, and was always full of life, cracking jokes and at the same time being an inspiration to the youth. Andrew undertook much charitable work over the years, raising money for good causes.
"He will be sorely missed by all, and our thoughts are with [his wife] Liz and the family at this hard time, we shall all remember him with real fondness, all for great reasons."
Steve Munkley, vice president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: "Andrew was not only a giant in stature but also one of the giants in our industry, he has sadly been taken from us at such a young age and he'll be sorely missed.
"Having enjoyed his friendship for over 20 years, Andrew was someone you could rely upon 100%, his sharp wit and great sense of humour had everyone gripped. He spent all his life developing young chefs and when he wasn't doing this, he was raising funds for various charities close to his heart.
"A true professional in our industry, when I asked him four years ago to think about standing for the chairmanship of the Craft Guild of Chefs, he was truly humbled. Like everything Andrew did in life, he stepped forward and made an amazing success of this role. My wife, Michele and I are sending our love to his wife Liz and his three boys at this sad time."
Mark Poynton, of MJP at the Shepherd restaurant in Cambridge, was first introduced to Bennett by chef Murray Chapman as a judge of the Passion to Inspire competition. He added: "Andrew always made me think about what I was doing, let alone the students.
"It's so sad to have to write about losing such a great man. Andrew was always there for everyone. He was a gentleman and an amazing chef. He was generous with his time and experience and I am truly grateful that I got to spend many a time judging alongside him. He was passionate about the next generation of chefs and I loved listening to his many stories. I am a better man for having had the chance to work with Andrew and I can say that he will be truly missed. #RIP chef."
A member of the Craft Guild of Chefs for over 25 years, Bennett started his culinary career after receiving his 706/1 and 706/2 [City & Guilds catering qualifications] at college and went straight to Claridge's in London for three and a half years, starting as a commis. Then a short diversion into contract catering with Gardner Merchant for two and a half years, before moving back into hotels at the Berkeley in London as a chef de partie on sauce with head chef Clement Schmiddle.
Bennett then went on to work for the famous TV chef Robert Carrier, who he described as "a legend and - well ahead of his time". Roles at the Portman hotel in London, and with chef Gunther Schlender at Rue St Jacques in Charlotte Street, which received a Michelin star, followed. He worked at the City Yacht Club, part of Ring & Brymer, and then opened the Conrad hotel in Chelsea Harbour.
Bennett told The Caterer how a role at Sopwell House in St Albans, was a gamble but one that paid off, starting with eight chefs and leaving with 22.
Bennett's last full-time role was as F&B director at the Park Lane hotel in London, where he was promoted from executive head chef. He worked there for 23 years and retired at the age of 59.
During his time as chair of the Craft Guild of Chefs, he toured the country talking to members, forming a new strategy for the association. He employed a new PR, marketing and social media company and unified the Guild's messages. He worked hard to provide added benefit to the Guild's partners and on plans to attract and retain the association's members.
Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala, who oversee the Zest Quest Asia young chef competition of which Bennett was chair of judges, released a statement which said: "We are all very saddened to lose this great man who was everything a young budding chef would want and aspire to be.
"Andrew was a stalwart amongst chefs and had a glorious career whilst being ever generous with his skills and knowledge. Such was his character too that he would always help others along the road to success.
"As chairman of judges for Zest Quest Asia since the competition began, he led his fellow judges towards the right decisions. He insisted on commending those he felt were truly deserving and had put in the hard work.
"Andrew was one of the very finest chef judges in our industry, and he chaired several panels. His amazing talent at analysing the dishes, his views plus his observations were always something to watch and learn from.
"His quick wit and peculiar sense of humour would leave you smiling for a long time, and wondering 'how the devil did he ever think of that one?'
"Andrew shall leave behind many great memories, a truly distinguished legacy and a long line of family, friends and relatives who will cherish every memory they shared with this great individual. May his soul rest in eternal peace or, as we Zoroastrians say, 'in Garotham Behesht' - the highest elevation of a soul where he treads with angels."
Andrew Bennett is survived by his wife Liz and his three sons.