Mark Stonham, Restaurant Associates' general manager, London Stock Exchange

18 August 2005
Mark Stonham, Restaurant Associates' general manager, London Stock Exchange

Mark Stonham admits that he misses cooking. As a trained chef turned general manager for Compass-owned Restaurant Associates at the London Stock Exchange, his job involves overseeing the catering at this vast blue-chip organisation.

"The chefs hate the fact that I go near the kitchen," he says. "I do have to force myself to take a back seat occasionally."

Stonham trained at Westminster Catering College before working as a sous chef at Mnage Trois alongside Antony Worrall Thompson from 1988 to 1989.

He then became head chef with Compass-owned Leith's at City law firm Theodore Goddard in 1991. Staying with Leith's, he moved on to a chef-manager job at Sumitomo Bank and, in 1998, took on the same role at the Sea Containers-Venice Simplon Orient-Express contract.

He became operations support manager for Leith's in 2001, responsible for five contracts and for chef training and development, before moving on to his current job in 2003.

It requires long hours. Stonham starts work at 7.30am and doesn't leave until 6pm. With 29 staff to look after, there is a lot to do. Teas and coffees, breakfasts, lunches and afternoon tea are all on the menu. "Basically," he says, "we can provide the equivalent of morning tea in bed or a chocolate on the pillow at night, despite the fact we're not a hotel."

One of the biggest challenges he has had to face was overseeing the move in July 2004 of the Stock Exchange from its Old Street headquarters to Paternoster Square. "Previously, we were serving 70% staff meals and 30% fine dining," he says. "At the new site, it's the other way round."

The recent London bombings have meant that Stonham has had to tighten security measures. "We have been double-checking our staff, but it is really all about being diligent," he says. " The Stock Exchange is a target, and we must be aware of that."

He advises anyone wishing to follow in his footsteps to maintain a healthy work-play balance. During his rise up the ranks, he admits to being slightly "blinkered" but says the past two years have been different. "I have a wife and two kids and I play rugby every Saturday," he says. "It is not all about work - you need outside interests."

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