98 days ago
Lea Eastman-Thomson was encouraged to get into culinary competitions by Steve Wylie, his first head chef at Sodexo.
Now Lea is the head chef.
He was the overall winner of last year’s Sodexo Salon Culinaire at Ascot Racecourse too.
‘When I first started at Sodexo I was chef de partie. The head chef was Steve,’ said Lea about joining the education contract with LVS Ascot seven years ago.
‘I got into competitions purely through Steve. He was a great mentor for me and pushed me to do lots of competitions, which helped improve my style cooking and made me a lot better than I was.’
Under Steve’s tutelage, Lea got gold at Junior Chef of the Year 2010 and was promoted through the kitchen at LVS Ascot.
He became head chef three years ago when Steve became Independents by Sodexo food development chef.
Focus on nurturing talent has clearly rubbed off on Lea, whose kitchen now boasts two former Sodexo Young Chef of the Year winners: Kat Barnes in 2014 and Liam Pope in 2015.
‘I saw an opportunity so I encouraged Liam and Kat to enter Salon Culinaire as well,’ said Lea.
‘They were both very nervous, but because I’ve experienced it myself so I could tell them you do get nervous, you think people watching will judge, but after five minutes you go into your own bubble and forget everyone’s there.
‘They both walked away with gold.’
At this year’s Salon Culinaire, Lea is competing in the team challenge the night before on Tuesday 26 September.
The format of this year’s event has changed with each team preparing one course of a seven-course meal for colleagues, clients and other invited guests.
Lea will be part of the three-chef Education team preparing dessert.
‘It’s total team work and a great way to meet other chefs from the business and get ideas,’ said Lea.
‘That’s the great thing about Salon Culinaire. Even if you’re not competing you still get to meet people from the business and suppliers.’
Managers have access to a brochure with full details of all the categories and how to enter, via Sodexo_Net. Talk to your line manager if you want to know more.
As well as the England event, Salons will also take place in Ireland and Scotland:
Ireland: 7 September at Cliff at Lyons, Co. Kildare
Scotland: 14 September at Hampden Park, Glasgow
England: 27 September at Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, Berkshire
There are a range of live competitions Sodexo chefs can enter Salon Culinaire. Find more information here.
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