Acorn winner Scott Wakefield, general manager of Lexington Catering, tells Janie Manzoori-Stamford about his lifelong passion for food and the catering industry
How did you find your way into the hospitality industry?
My grandmother was a trainer at the British Sugarcraft Guild, and at the age of 13 I entered my first competition at a local exhibition, winning the category with a silver medal in the adult competition with a canal and riverside cake. I knew then that catering was going to be the career path for me and from 15 to 17 I gained experience as a chef, learning all I could about kitchen life from a team that had seasonal cooking at its heart. You could say I then had a moment of divine inspiration and I switched paths into management.
What did you do next? I transferred to Bournemouth University to study international hospitality management, where I gained invaluable training in five-star service in fine dining through a year's placement at Buckingham Palace working for the Royal Family. It wasn't long before I was a finalist in the Young Guns 2006 competition, which was where I met Tim West, who threw open the doors to contract catering for me.
It was through Tim that I was introduced to Lexington Catering - where I have been ever since - and it felt like a meeting of minds. Lexington's passion for great food, people and service really jumped out at me. These three things have always been at the heart of what I believe hospitality is all about and continue to be what I strive to achieve daily with my team.
Did anyone try to put you off? In life there are always people who will try to give advice, but sometimes that advice could hamper you or prevent you from reaching your dreams.
Luckily for me I chose to ignore the advice from my A level art teacher, who knew nothing about life in catering. On a number of occasions she made out that catering or being a chef was not a career and that I should focus on growing up and getting a "real job" as I wouldn't achieve anything in this line of work. Looking back, it makes me laugh that someone in her position has such a narrow-minded approach to inspiring students.
What are you doing now? I am now a general manager for Lexington Catering. Over the past seven years I have been fortunate to be at the forefront of a successful and ever-growing business. This has allowed me to have some incredible hands-on experiences and I've learnt a huge amount over a relatively short period.
What's the most rewarding day you've had in your career? My career-defining moment has to be winning the Acorn Award this year. Being part of history and working at Windsor Castle for the marriage of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall has always stuck as one of my lasting memories of working at Buckingham Palace. The planning and flawless execution on the day created standards far beyond what I had experienced before.
What do you love most about â¨your job? Everything! I don't think there has ever been a day where I have wanted to do anything else. Being in a position of responsibility, heading up a large team and working with like-minded colleagues really enhances the magic that happens on site.
What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future? The great thing that makes catering different compared with other industries is that our expertise and knowledge are easily transferable across most of the sector. The opportunities are endless and you never know what is around the â¨corner.
Over the coming years I have set my long-term sights on running a boutique restaurant in the Cotswolds with its own garden for growing produce. I love creating stories behind the service, and for me every aspect of the business must be chosen for a reason, whether it's locally sourced food or how the produce is created. It's all about the customer journey that will help keep them returning time and again.