26 November, 2014

A taste of what's next

"I love tasting our food. And, when we're tasting a range, we get to taste a lot of food. It's a great perk of the job.

I started as a pastry chef aged 17 and I've always worked in Michelin-starred restaurants – I've been lucky. It's been a long hard career. I was Gary Rhodes' Head Pastry Chef and was head pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental in London. All Michelin- starred places.

Now, I develop all of the desserts for M&S and we have something like 170 different desserts on the shelves at any one time. I'm the guy that gets to write the description of what we want a dessert to do and then we send this out to our suppliers. For example, if we launch a new range in November, we start the previous October. What I do is I identify what techniques we want, what finishes, what types of products and so forth. Then the suppliers pitch back to me and together we develop the products.

Together with the suppliers we go through this series of gates. Every time we're testing what we can do. Can we do this? Can we do that? There are six gates we go through, from the brief right up to when we sign it off, we package it, manufacture it and launch it. Then it's ready to go on the shelves.

I'm very lucky – I've got a good food background. I've worked as a trendsetter in the past and now we have to keep our finger on the pulse so that we are the best trend follower.

We try to create products that are restaurant quality and I think M&S do that really well. We're watching restaurants like Hakkasan and some of the best patisseries to make sure we're doing things as well as we can. I've worked with some of the best chefs and I can safely say I'm now working with a very innovative company.

I love staying ahead, planning, and being the best. It's November now, and I'm already planning next Christmas's range. We really do set the pace in this industry."


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