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Mark Wright – My Life in Hospitality

29 October 2009 by
Mark Wright – My Life in Hospitality

Mark Wright is the regional executive chef for the Compass Stadia Division.

Mark Wright knew he was destined to enter the hospitality industry the moment he walked into his first professional kitchen aged 14 and decided he could do a better job than all six chefs employed there.

"A lot of people are not confident in themselves, but I've always been outspoken and think that if you believe in something you should say it," he says. "Never take a back seat. Be bold, express your ideas and be yourself."

After studying catering at Eastleigh College in Southampton, Wright took up his first position, at a Holiday Inn. He followed this with junior sous chef roles at the Hilton and Marwell hotels in Southampton, where he learnt the importance of cooking quality fresh food from scratch.

Wright moved on to Careys Manor hotel in Brockenhurst as sous chef. This was a tough stint, as he worked 100-hour, six-night weeks, but it stood him in good stead for his next lucky break and resulted in two AA rosettes.

"I was at an event and met the general manager from the Beaulieu National Motoring Museum, which resulted in me entering contract catering, working for Sodexo as head chef," he says.

At just 24, Wright oversaw the entire fine-dining operation at the Bournemouth International Centre for three years, which he describes as "a crazy, busy time".

In 2000 Wright joined Compass Group as head chef of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, where he worked closely with suppliers to develop a local feel to the modern European menu.

"This was another manic time, when we were doing 3,200 covers on an event day, and it was all public catering," he says.

In 2003 Wright progressed to his current role overseeing seven venues including Twickenham Stadium, the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Goodwood and Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin, which is due to reopen next year.

"It's my job to oversee the head chefs at each site, plus major events, menu planning, purchasing and day-to-day food tastings," he says.

On top of his busy schedule, Wright takes time to speak to students at local colleges and offers some of them work experience placements.

"When talking to students I advise them to get out there and not wait to be promoted. At the same time I try to make them realise that it takes time but so many are interested in how much they will earn," he says.

HIGHS… The FA Cup final was such a buzz. We were under the spotlight and catering for people who had spent £1,000 each on a ticket. We had the money to spend on high-quality products and for dessert we made a Black Forest gâteau with hot chocolate fondant, clotted cream ice-cream, warm berries and chocolate shavings. Heston Blumenthal was there and he thought we had copied his recipe.

Football is my thing and I have been lucky enough to follow the England team around the world. In the past 10 years I've watched them play in Spain, France, Germany, Japan and Croatia.

This November we will do 30,000 covers at four Twickenham rugby games, which is a monumental thing to plan and organise.

We tend to stick to traditional main courses, with steak, vegetables, potatoes and sauces; but we have more freedom to play around with the starters and desserts.

LOWS… I've learnt to check and re-check after I had a mishap with a zero once. I mistakenly ordered 2,000 chicken crown portions instead of 200 when I was working at the Bournemouth International Centre. I froze the excess and used them when I could. I managed to keep that a secret - no one really knew… until now!

The Asian Olympics in Qatar 2006 with Compass Middle East was another funny experience. I was thrown in at the last minute so I had no time to plan. I got a call on a Monday night, asking me to go. I flew out on Tuesday and didn't go to bed until the following Saturday.

I've never seen so much rice in my life. We got through three tonnes in one day. There was so much pressure to deliver; I've never worked so hard in my life and yet everything was out of my control. I didn't know the suppliers and I had a team of 60 or 70 to manage. Three weeks felt like three years.

Age 37
Status Single
Drives Mercedes
Favourite holiday Las Vegas
Working motto Work hard, play even harder

RECESSION-BUSTING TIP

Work smarter, use cheaper cuts of meat and manage your labour while continuing to deliver quality on the plate so your customers don't notice the difference.

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