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The Caterer

Leading lights: Ken Winch

24 May 2019 by

Ken Winch FFCSI (PP) is an independent consultant at Ken Winch Design, responsible for designing commercial kitchens for some of the biggest names in the industry.

Winch was presented with The Caterer and CESA Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Catering Equipment Industry in 2006, and was president of the Food Service Consultants International organisation from 2004-2006.

Lisa Jenkins finds out what the role of kitchen design consultant entails and hears his advice for those looking for a career in the hospitality design sector.

How did you move from an apprentice in a foundry and engineering company to a career in the hospitality industry?

I spent six years in the plant maintenance department, specialising in new magnesium alloys and ships' propellers. I served in every department involved with plant engineering. When the job came to an end, hospitality chose me, really, when I did my first drawing for a kitchen.

How different was it working for a big design consultancy firm?

I first came into consultancy in 1969 and it was ground-breaking and daunting at the same time. We sold a design service, for a fee, against the major manufacturers and dealers, who were offering ‘free' design. It was a while until the real growth of the design consultancy happened.

How has the role of the design consultant changed?

The role has become broader and more demanding, but I don't think the basics have changed as such, except that we are now considered an essential element of the design team, whatever the size of the project.

The clients, operators and the other design disciplines have become ever more reliant on our expertise, not just for planning, but for advice on all of the engineering aspects – the finishes, lighting and the myriad details involved.

Which of your projects over your past 60 years stick in your mind?

There's a couple, actually. The restoration of the Great Kitchen at Windsor Castle in 1992, due to the scale of the job, and the honour and privilege of being involved. This also led to the redesign of Buckingham Place and the Balmoral Castle kitchens.

Second, the Bank of England Kings Arms Yard project in 1980, which included every form of foodservice over seven floors, and where every known rule and convention of foodservice was challenged.

What has been the biggest change in the industry over the 60 years of your career?

I think the most significant change has been the reduction in kitchen space and people's time and the increase in the pressure both of these factors bring. Alongside this, the demands made by project managers and architects have increased and I think there is less respect for the design team's professionalism.

How can we encourage more people to work in the design side of hospitality?

We need to talk about design as a profession, not just a job, and to stress the creative and technical skills needed. Include it as a full course in universities and arrange visits and lectures from designers.

We also need to provide better training and support when people are employed. All of these initiatives would be strongly supported by the industry bodies and the consultants themselves.

Ken's top tips

  • To be a modern consultant you need to be a creative, innovative thinker who can overcome any design challenge presented to you, whether that's from the client, other designers and consultants, or from the building itself.
  • Remember who you are and where you started. Do not let your ego get in the way.
  • Have an understanding for the needs of today while thinking about tomorrow. Consider the effects your decisions will have on future generations, on sustainability, energy and food waste. It's where we, as designers, have a huge influence.

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