Michael Toader, head kitchen porter of the Victory Services Club in London has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Kitchen Porter of the Year competition organised by The Caterer in partnership with warewasher manufacturer Winterhalter UK.
During the pandemic Toader moved into the club for a period of six months and received training to provide a meal provision for key workers and a skeleton staff team producing three meals a day unsupervised.
He has also worked on reducing costs for the organisation by managing the use of cleaning materials and the COSHH store whilst training new KPs to exacting standards of chemical usage and is one of the Kitchen's Energy Wardens, helping the club reach its ambitious targets to reduce its energy usage.
The judges commented on his contribution to the Victory Services Club's sustainability plan that includes a roof garden to provide vegetables and herbs to the kitchen, where Toader has taken the lead on looking after the project for the last two years.
Stephen Kinkead, managing director of Winterhalter UK, commented: "Michael's entry was outstanding, and you can see he is a popular team player. You can feel his enthusiasm, willingness, and determination to consistently drive standards and set the culture for his team and having met him I am not surprised he has taken the time to contribute to the Ukraine conflict charity and been voted the Club's 2021 Employee of the Year having been selected unanimously from 80 colleagues."
Paul Mattocks, Toader's executive chef and nominator, said: "Michael has driven the delivery of exceptional standards of cleanliness in the Club's kitchens due to his professionalism, dedication and tenacity towards his role. He can be relied upon to lead the KP team that has faced constant staff shortages. His excellent diligence and unique attention to every detail of his duties has allowed the kitchen management to focus on the food offers. He has cemented a purpose-driven cohesive team within his area of responsibility while setting ambitious targets for himself. Our KPs can be trusted to work with little supervision due to his leadership.
"He leads by example. He has not been late or missed a shift in five years working at the club. New and agency KPs are initially buddied up with him and this immediately amplifies a positive environment and promotes the standards that need to be achieved. His invariably cheerful nature and winning smile is another important contribution. He is always prepared to help others and go the extra mile, and as a result his team all take pride in their work and understand how vital their role is to the Club's success."
Toader's prize includes cash and a celebratory meal for him and his friends and family in a casual-dining restaurant of his choice. The Victory Services Club wins one of Winterhalter's warewash products, worth up to £8,000.
This year the judges also announced two joint runner-up kitchen porters: Gerry Daly, head kitchen porter, Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Scotland and Victor Shooter, head kitchen porter, Baxterstorey, British American Tobacco, London and two highly-commended kitchen porters: Lango Wyaba, supervisor, Act Clean at Le Cordon Bleu, London and Remy Tingson, kitchen assistant, the Red Lion, Fuller's, London, who will all receive a cash prize.
The competition, launched in 2013 aims to recognise KPs working in restaurants, pubs, schools, contract caterers and hotels across the country. It is now in its ninth year and has gone from strength to strength with consistently high numbers of entries, and is the only competition in the industry to recognise and celebrate the back-breaking work that KPs do in our kitchens.
The Kitchen Porter of the Year judging panel includes James Horler, chief executive of Ego Restaurants and chairman of Notes Music & Coffee and Ping Pong; Hayden Groves, chef consultant; Deborah Homshaw, managing director, education and healthcare, CH&Co; Stephen Kinkead, managing director, Winterhalter UK; and Lisa Jenkins, managing editor, The Caterer.
Every KP who was entered for the competition will receive an Oliver Hardy KP of the Year branded apron in recognition of their duties in their kitchens.
Click here to hear the highlights from this year's judging day.