Stephen Robinson has joined Twycross Zoo as head chef of its catering operation. He spoke to Janie Stamford about his plans to develop the food offer.
When did you join Twycross Zoo? I joined the team in March. Before that I was the area development chef at Le Bistrot Pierre, a privately owned group of nine French bistros, but I've had a lot of different career experiences. I spent a couple of years in Madrid with Alberto Chicote at NODO, Nilo and Aldaba and after that I took to the high seas where I worked as a sous chef on P&O, Celebrity cruises and Oceania.
Tell me about the restaurant. Our primary restaurant sits within our first class Himalaya Centre which offers brilliant views across our Snow Leopard enclosure. The Himalayan theme is carried through our menu with curries a specialty. Live cooking stations, food and wine matching, recipe cards and cooking demonstrations are all part of our plans for 2012. Himalaya is also a fantastic event space and with our soon to open Art Gallery, corporate events and themed party nights is another goal I aim to achieve.
What challenges does your new role pose? I'm looking to develop the team and broaden their skills to meet the demands of an evolving catering offer as the public and event business grows at the zoo. I also plan to change the perception of the food proposition and quality at the visitor attraction.
How does the food offer sit within the zoo? Our catering is an integral part of the visitor experience; our vision for the future is for food and hospitality to become a reason to visit the zoo. We have built strong partnerships with our local suppliers so we work in tandem to deliver sustainable quality.
What are you most excited about working on? I'm looking forward to creating a new range of menus that are designed to tempt our customers with an interesting combination of flavours and textures whilst still serving quality British favourite dishes at real value prices.
What prompted you to become a chef? Enjoying food from a young age led to me cooking. I love the energy and excitement that the kitchen brings, starting with a table of fresh ingredients and finishing with a great dish that makes people smile.