GCA launches new Rising Star programme for catering staff

Following the on-going success of the GCA Rising Stars initiative a new programme aimed at garden centre catering staff was launched at its conference in January this year (2018).

Sponsored by Creed Foodservice, it has been created to highlight and develop the talented individuals in garden centre restaurants and cafés and to recognise the important role catering plays in the industry.

Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA, said: “Our existing Rising Stars programme, sponsored by Westland Horticulture, has gone from strength-to-strength and remains a significant benefit to GCA members wishing to develop their staff. It is also an important tool for garden centres wishing to celebrate and acknowledge those staff that give their all and are eager to learn more. The benefits to the individuals taking part are huge and the programme is a big boost to career progression.

“For most garden centres, certainly in recent years, the percentage of catering staff is at an all-time high, for example at Haskins, 50% of employees are catering-based. We felt that it was right to develop a Rising Stars programme that ‘caters’ specifically for their needs. So, we have created a separate catering programme with the aim of developing individuals within our industry and raising the profile of garden centre catering.

“We are grateful to Creed Foodservice, who are sponsoring the programme, for sharing our vision and acknowledging the need to develop the talented individuals within our sector. The programme is not intended as a cookery course, instead, focusing on front of house and restaurant management. It is ideal for supervisors and assistant managers with potential to be catering managers.”

Sponsors Creed Foodservice are a family-owned foodservice provider with a £65m turnover and 350 staff. Branded as a ‘one-stop-shop’, it has in-house butchery, fresh fruit and veg, dairy, ambient, chilled and frozen sections and happily provides a route to market for smaller suppliers.

The programme will be facilitated by Chris Brown from Turpin Smale Catering Consultants. Chris, who is well-known in the industry, has been a leading UK catering consultant with practical hands-on experience opening and operating bars, restaurants and cafés for the past 15 years.

He has been a Director at Turpin Smale Catering Consultants since 2001 and is also non-Executive Director at Holkham Estate in Norfolk and has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Hotel & Catering Management from the University of Surrey.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, author of the award-winning ‘Great Cafés Blog’ and former Managing Director of restaurant companies Corney & Barrow and Groupe Chez Gerard as well.

Turpin Smale Catering Consultants has more than 750 catering consultancy assignments with garden centre and visitor attraction clients including Westminster Abbey, British Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Albert Hall and Burghley House.

Iain continued: “We’re now inviting applications from member garden centres who would like to put candidates forward and 20 will start the programme this year. There will be four masterclasses designed to help them to improve their knowledge and experience, as well as show them what else is going on in the wider market place.

“Between each masterclass, a project will be set to the candidates. They will present the results of their projects at the following masterclass. The first two masterclasses will cover topics such as financial control, what makes a good manager and food presentation. All 20 candidates will complete these first two masterclasses. The third masterclass will be held in central London. This will be a tour of Central London cafés, restaurants and coffee shops to inspire the candidates, and stretch their boundaries. Again, all 20 candidates will have the opportunity to complete this London tour.

“Also between masterclasses, the Rising Stars will complete exercises on what they have learnt within their own garden centres and assess the performance of their centre’s catering unit, try out new ideas and evaluate the results. Examples include benchmarking against local competition and researching good and bad examples of food presentation.”

Candidates will have training in simple financial controls, food merchandising, innovations in the sector and how to present effectively. Their homework will focus on specific examples of how their own café can be improved in terms of sales, profit and quality.

“For the fourth masterclass, the top five candidates will have a fantastic opportunity to spend some time in Creed’s development kitchen with the legendary ex-England rugby captain, 2011 Celebrity MasterChef winner and non-executive director at Creed, Phil Vickery MBE. Phil is a very talented chef and will spend some time showing the candidates his culinary skills.

“Phil will also help coach and prepare the top five to present at our conference in January 2019. Conference delegates will then choose an overall winner, who will be crowned the ‘GCA Catering Rising Star 2018’.”

Application forms are available to member garden centres by emailing info@gca.org.uk. The closing date for applications is Friday, March 16, 2018.

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