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Meet the ‘Most Influential’ in public sector catering for 2023

4th Dec 2023 - 05:00
Meet the ‘Most Influential’ in public sector catering for 2023
Public Sector Catering once again convened a panel of expert judges to draw up the Top 20 ‘Most Influential’ people in public sector catering. The 2023 list features 50% of new names compared to the 2022 to reflect wider industry changes.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Anita Brown

In her day job Anita is service manager at Stockton on Tees Borough Council. She started as a school cook in what she calls ‘the days of endless budgets and no standards’. The council provides school meals to 50 schools and academies that serve a diverse community.

On recently taking the helm at LACA she said: “I am committed to supporting the great work of our frontline services. We are still in difficult times with the cost of living crisis, problems with recruitment and added pressures coming from our food supplies – they are all still impacting us, day in day out.

“I will campaign for increased funding to at least match across the four nations in order for us all to deliver the great school meals provision to all pupils.”

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Brian Robb

Since becoming chair of the Hospital Caterers Association in April 2021, Brian has worked to put in place a reforming and modernising strategy to make the organisation ‘fit for the future’.

At the same time he has had to look outwards to help members manage during a time of staff shortages, food price inflation, tight budgets and changes enforced as Trusts try to meet Government CO2 commitments to reach Net Zero.

Under his leadership the HCA has also instituted a webinar programme to help members stay in touch and informed about industry issues.

Of the regular food price increases over the last year, he says: “The impact of rising costs is difficult in public sector where our budgets are finite and we have no way to pass on increase.”

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Phil Rees-Jones

As chair of The University Caterers Organisation, Phil leads the leading professional membership body for in-house caterers in higher education with more than 300 members.

The organisation also operates a not-for-profit procurement service offering a ‘consistent and efficient buying process’ through a series of regularly updated framework agreements.

With more than 15 years of experience in catering, hospitality and retail, he joined the TUCO board in 2014 to lead on governance and assist in determining a research strategy.

In 2016 he became the very first vice-chair of TUCO before becoming chair in 2020. Alongside that he is deputy director of estates & campus facilities for Cardiff University.

He is overseeing the development of TUCO’s strategic partnership with Menus of Change, a US-based initiative to promote healthy, sustainable menus.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Neel Radia

His appointment was announced and his latest two-year tenure began at the National Association of Care Catering’s recent Training & Development Forum in Nottingham.

This is the fourth term Neel will have served as chair, having previously led the organisation from 2013-2019.

A well-known figure in the industry with more than 25 years of experience working with wholesalers and food manufacturers within hospitality and public sector catering, as well as leadership roles in the not-for-profit sector.

Until his latest appointment, he was the lead for the NACC’s Meals on Wheels campaign, championing nutritional support for older and vulnerable people within the community.

Radia said he was dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of good nutrition and hydration in care settings.

“We are facing some challenging times, which need challenging solutions. The NACC will remain the voice of those providing catering; whether that is in residential care, at home in the community or through our meals on wheels service.”

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Christopher Ross

Chris is now in the second year of his term as chair of ASSIST FM, the organisation that represents public sector FM services providers in Scotland.

In his day job he is senior operations manager for City of Edinburgh Council, which delivers 22,000 meals a day across 96 educational establishments. He was the lead officer for the £20m Universal Free School Meals programme, achieving a 40% increase in capacity over two years.

He represents all local authority caterers at a national level as part of ASSIST FM – including Government liaison and liaison with international bodies.

He is a HIT (Hospitality Industry Trust) Scotland ambassador, helping the charity to encourage the development those working or studying in the sector through skills training and its scholarship programme.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Molly Shaher

As chair of the Professional Association for Catering Education, Molly sees her role as encouraging catering educating institutions to work together to manage the challenges of continuing change.

Her members are struggling with course closures as colleges look to cut costs by axing expensive-to-run training kitchens and also saving money budgeted for ingredients for catering students.

Despite this and the added challenge of poor perceptions of the catering industry influencing parents of potential students, she regularly publicises the fact that there remains strong interest among young people to join courses at the same time as the catering and hospitality industry is crying out for more staff.

She believes that a properly-supported further education sector, combined with apprenticeships, can provide some of the answer.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Matthew White

The Public Sector Catering Alliance offers a collaborative forum and lobbying voice on issues of common interest across education, health and social care, prisons and the military.

As chair Matt takes the lead on the alliance’s annual action points and in forming consensus views on issues of shared concern such as Government buying standards, allergens, obesity and recruitment and retention.

Since becoming PSCA chair he has introduced a new ‘constitution’ to regularise the way it is led and works and overseen a pan public sector highlighting the huge challenges caterers currently face in managing food and energy price rises, supply disruptions and staff shortages.

The immediate past chair of TUCO, he received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for his work as TUCO chair and at the University of Reading, where he is currently director of student experience and education.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Julian Edwards

An independent food service consultant for 27 years, Julian Edwards heads FCSI UK&I, the professional association for independent foodservice consultants. Its members work with project managers and architects, facilities managers and caterers on hotels, restaurants, workplaces, hospitals, schools, and universities.

He says: “I have always strongly believed that the FCSI is an essential society in our industry. With such a collective wealth of expertise, knowledge and opportunities, it provides an excellent contribution to foodservice.”

In his day job at consultancy GY5 Julian manages the day to day operations and is responsible for some of the most innovative design projects and management consulting for single schools through to multiple site contracts turning over £5m plus. He is also leading the Allergen Accreditation programme for all catering organisations UK wide.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Sue Cawthray

Sue has just completed her second spell as chair of the National Association of Care Catering (NACC), the organisation for care home caterers and community meal providers.

She has worked within the elderly sector for more than 26 years, including hands-on support and care, business management and strategic planning, marketing and fund raising.

She joined Harrogate Neighbours as the chief executive in 2005 and has led the organisation to where it is today – a leading care provider in North Yorkshire County Council.

In 2023 she was awarded Public Sector Catering’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the work she has done and continues to do on behalf of the care sector.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Alexia Robinson

The group she started organises British Food Fortnight, the most established promotion of British food in the public sector.

Alexia has helped establish industry working groups for school chefs, with LACA, and for hospital caterers, with the HCA and the Hospital Food Review Team.

She organised farm visits for NHS caterers to show them the environmental and nutritional reasons for buying from British farmers; a national network of farm visits is now planned. She has also presented the case for British food to every HCA regional branch. As a result, Northern Ireland hospitals took part this year under the umbrella ‘Celebrating Northern Irish food during British Food Fortnight’.

Defra is now a supporter of the event, producing films of chefs talking about why they buy British produce.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: David Oliver

David is responsible for feeding more than 80,000 prisoners a day on an average budget of £2.15 for three meals a day.

They range in age from 15 to 80-plus and include adherents of most the world’s known religions, complete with their dietary obligations, together with all dietary lifestyle choices plus many who have allergens or other food intolerances.

He has introduced a national training plan that enables prisoners to gain a NVQ level 2 food hygiene qualification to help them find employment after leaving prison.

And he is working with university researchers on studies linking food and behaviour, such as the effects of omega 3 on reducing anxiety and violence among prisoners.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Phil Shelley

A former chair of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA), Phil chaired the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food in 2020 that laid out eight National Standards of Hospital Food for patients, staff and visitors that all NHS organisations are legally required to meet.

Now with NHS Estates and Facilities is the national lead for Net Zero food, and has overseen the creation of the NHS Chef Competition, which has just celebrated its third year with the biggest number of entries yet.

The competition, the creation of the NHS Chef Academy, and the appointment of 20 ‘exemplar Trusts’ are part of his efforts to highlight best practice and embed the review recommendations in daily practice.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Minette Batters

Minette runs a tenanted family farm in Wiltshire. The mixed farming business includes a 100-cow continental cross suckler herd, as well as sheep and arable. She is the co-founder of the campaigning initiatives ‘Ladies in Beef’ and the ‘Great British Beef Week’.

In 2020 she brought together a coalition of chefs, farmers, environmentalists, consumer groups and animal welfare experts to back the NFU food standards petition, which was signed by more than 1m people.

A longstanding NFU member, she has served on the NFU Governance Board and as NFU deputy president from 2014 to 2018 before being elected president.

Campaigning on behalf of NFU members about the importance of British food and farming has been a key driver of her time at the NFU.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Robin Mills

Robin Mills was appointed to his current role in 2019 and under him Compass has played a key role in the national effort to tackle Covid, including a redeployment of staff from sports and business sectors to hospitals and defence sites.

He was previously group chief people officer and prior to that successfully headed the UK’s education division, Chartwells, which claims to be the UK’s leading school catering company, with an estimated 1,800 schools on its books.

In his current role he is responsible for 50,000 employees running contracts generating £19bn in revenues.

Recent public sector catering contract gains include Bedfordshire Police, which its Government-services arm ESS won to add to the contracts it already runs for police forces in London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hertfordshire.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Sean Haley

Sean is Sodexo chief executive of service operations worldwide, a member of the group’s executive committee and, since 2016, has been region chair for UK & Ireland, which employs 34,000 people.

He has more than 28 years of experience of both public and private sector outsourcing, joining Sodexo in 2011.

Under him Sodexo has extended the military Project Allenby/Connaught contract for a further 17 years at a value of at least £730m. It employs a 1,450-strong team.

Sodexo also recently extended its Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust contract and took over the management of two more prisons for the Ministry of Justice.

Sean is a director of Springboard, the charity which supports the disadvantaged and underprivileged with employment opportunities in hospitality.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Jill Whittaker

Jill co-founded of HIT Training Ltd in 2006 and says her passion is using apprenticeships to develop individuals and provide businesses with the skills they need.

She was named Institute of Directors’ Director of the Year for the South East and London, and is listed in the Shine Awards 100 Most Influential Women in Hospitality as well as the Association of Catering Excellence’s (ACE) top 50 most influential women in food service.

HIT employs 500 staff supporting more than 10,000 apprentices and 4,000 employers each year.

Jill is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, the Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA), the British Institute of Innkeeping and the Royal Society of Arts. She was awarded an OBE in 2022 for outstanding services to apprenticeships in hospitality, care, and management.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Mo Baines

Mo’s career in local government began in 1989 working for Manchester City Council, joining the council’s Tendering Unit to providing operational, employment and strategic support to in-house teams subject to competitive tendering processes.

Following a move to the APSE in 2004 she became principal adviser for the North of England, followed by head of communication and coordination, handling research projects and media work.

Following a period as deputy chief executive Mo is now the APSE chief executive. She holds an MPA with distinction from the University of Liverpool and is author of ‘Rebuilding Capacity: the case for insourcing public contracts’ as well as a regular columnist for The MJ.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Nadim & Tanya Ednan-Laperouse

Nadim and Tanya tragically lost their daughter Natasha following an allergic reaction. As a result they set up the Natasha Research Foundation to help and ultimately cure people with allergies.

They campaign tirelessly within the public sector, personally speaking at many industry events, to keep allergy awareness and training uppermost in the minds of caterers.

The foundation aims to bring about positive change by focusing on medical research, law and policies. Tanya and Nadim received the 2022 Industry Recognition Award at the Public Sector Catering Awards for their work in raising awareness of food allergies.

They have spoken at the LACA Main Event twice, the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) forum and The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) conference.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Tim Smith

Tim was appointed as the industry chair of the Food and Drink Sector Council in August 2022. The council is the formal industry partnership with the Government, addressing challenges faced by the sector and building a more productive and sustainable food and drink system.

He was appointed an independent non-executive director of East Yorkshire-based food company Cranswick in 2018, becoming the non-executive chairman in July 2021.

He has experience in the UK food sector having worked in food manufacturing, government regulation and supermarket retail. Tim was the group quality director at Tesco plc between 2012 and 2017. Before that he was the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) during which time he led a strategic review of the agency.

Most Influential in Public Sector Catering 2023: Cathy Amos

Cathy has spent working life in the food and hospitality industry and her current role sees her closely involved in contract catering, healthcare, and education.

Within the care sector she has held an executive role with the NACC on behalf of Brakes, with a focus on driving awareness and best practise to support people with dementia, dysphagia, and complex nutritional needs.

In education she has covered ‘The School Food Plan’ and UIFSM as well as her involvement in Brakes’ ‘Meals & More’ initiative to tackle ‘holiday hunger’ for children.

She is also the Brakes lead on the Public Sector Catering Alliance, co-founder of the Surplus4good initiative diverting surplus food to worthy causes from public sector and foodservice events, and is an ambassador for ‘Love British Food’.

Written by
Edward Waddell