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This much I know: Thomas Rhodes

03 August 2018 by
This much I know: Thomas Rhodes

The executive head chef at Twickenham Stadium speaks to Katie Pathiaki about growing up on a farm, his appearance on MasterChef and his plans for the future

I studied business, sport and production design at Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. I've always had an interest in food; even when I was young, I was always very inquisitive in my parents' kitchen, and soon after leaving school I began to take catering more seriously.

My very first job in hospitality was at the Yellow Broom restaurant in Cheshire. I started there as a trainee at 15 and worked my way up to sous chef. The French restaurant is picturesque and is one of Cheshire's best-known and popular local landmarks. Everything was handmade and we did our own butchery in the kitchens; it was a great experience and a huge learning curve in my young career.

I have always had a passion for food, but sport was arguably my first love. It wasn't until I was leaving school at about 15 or 16 that I really considered catering and being a chef as a career. Growing up on a farm, my mother and grandmother were constantly cooking and I had a growing passion for food. I remember reading Marco Pierre White's autobiography at 15 and I was hooked.

I spent 10 years working with Matthew Davies

I moved to Twickenham in late 2012, catering for major matches before joining the full-time brigade in 2014. I moved to Twickenham, not just because of the scale of the operation, but because it was a huge opportunity to work for an expanding business in an arena I have always admired. With so many events at the stadium on any given day, there is always something new happening, with menus needing to be created and new dishes developed, tasted and produced for service.

I also manage the kitchen team of 16 full-time and up to 160 temporary staff for match days. We can feed up to 10,000 guests on a busy matchday. I am also responsible for the management and administration of the kitchen operation, while guiding, directing and training all team members, focusing on food innovation and market trends.

The thing I enjoy most about my job is the variety of events and catering challenges. It keeps me and my team on our toes. Trialling and creating dishes is the fun part, along with product development.

I encourage my team to take inspiration from other events and cuisines. After all these years I'm still learning every day. I'm grateful to be in a position that allows me to experiment and has expanded my knowledge.

Last year's semi-final of MasterChef:The Professionals was filmed at Twickenham, and I was invited as a guest to taste and judge the food alongside some well-known rugby faces. MasterChef is a huge platform for professional and aspiring chefs. It was great to see the show being produced and to meet fellow chefs and experience their creations; I hope my professional feedback was constructive and useful.

There is a lot of redevelopment and expansion taking place at Twickenham Stadium. We will be reviewing some of the catering concepts and expanding the hospitality facilities. It will be innovative and exciting for the F&B teams as well as a great prospect for match and non-matchday guests.

My long-term goal has always been to do something on my own. Owning a restaurant is most definitely the ultimate dream, but there's so much I want to try and achieve before then.


CV

February 2018-present Executive head chef, Twickenham Experience, London

January 2014-February 2018

Chef de partie, then senior sous chef, then head chef, Twickenham Experience

September 2008-December 2013 Senior chef de partie, VIP and directors' lounge, Manchester United FC

January 2012-January 2013

Chef (Lindley Group), Stoke City FC

February 2002-September 2008 Chef de partie, then sous chef, Yellow Broom restaurant, Cheshire

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