Paul Gould, 57, is group executive head chef of Amadeus, the NEC Group's catering business. Starting as the NEC's youngest ever head chef, Gould has led his team to win over 600 medals and represented the UK in the World Culinary Olympics. He tells Janie Stamford how the business has changed in his 35 years there.
Did you have any idea what to expect ahead of the NEC opening?
All I'd thought about was the enormity of everything. Having worked for a five-star hotel, I was used to quantities of 150-250 covers. When I got to the NEC, we were looking at volumes of 5,000-20,000 covers. I was only 23, and it was a big change.
How has the NEC Group changed in 35 years?
When I started we had just one venue - the NEC. Thirty-five years on and we have four of our own venues [the NEC, the ICC, the NIA and LG Arena] as well as the management contract to operate Convention Centre, Dublin. Our most recent win was the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.
How has the catering industry evolved?
Food trends have been reflected in what and how we cater. Thirty-five years ago, deals were sealed over a four-hour meal of several courses of rich food, with high levels of alcohol consumption. Nowadays, everyone is so busy and technology-orientated, meals are lighter, healthier and shorter.
What's the reason behind your long service with one employer?
I have to thank my mentor, Bob Smith, the first executive head chef and captain of the British Cookery Team for encouraging and believing in me. People have often asked why don't I have my own restaurant but I don't have any regrets. Nowhere else would have given me this variety and challenge.
What have been your career highlights? I have four:
1) It took 20 years of practising to win my first Gold at the prestigious Grand Prix D'Honneur  and the Arthur Hope Trophy .
2) Taking the catering from classic silver service and flambés to plated banquets for thousands.
3) Serving Diana, Princess of Wales.
4) Representing the UK at the World Culinary Olympics in 1992 complete with Yves Saint Laurent suits, sponsored by the Clothes Show.