00:02 Yeah my name is Mack Allen, I am an operations director for a contract kitchen company called Baxter Storey.
00:07 We provide food and food services to mostly business and industry clients like Barclays Bank, ITV for staff catering in staff restaurants, fine dining for directors and, and manager of, as I said, mainly business and industry contracts.
00:22 My mum worked in a, in a public boys’ school and during the summer holidays and particularly at the end of the, the summer when the sports days were on, they needed extra help to go in and make sandwich boxes and packed lunches and it was a great way of earning an extra few pennies.
00:38 It’s probably fair to say I didn’t enjoy school that much, I was keen for the next chapter in my life to start and kind of really wanted to do it my way rather a prescribed way. I wasn’t a rebel or anything like that but I wanted to get on with it my way.
00:52 My father was a musician. He was blind so he couldn’t earn a living in the kind of the, the traditional ways. He was the, he was the leader of a sort of Scottish dance band, sort of doing the hotel things for, for English tourists.
01:06 All the time whilst I was working in a hotel, I wanted to join the army and I went along to the careers office and did all the, the introduction to joining the army and he then said to me, what do you want to do when you join the army and I said, well I want to be a soldier. He said, well actually the army’s a bit more specific than that, you can do a trade too and he asked me what I was doing now and I said I was a chef and he said, do you enjoy that and I said, yes, and he said, well you can actually join something called the army catering corps and to me the concept of being a chef in the army was just too good to be true and I think I just kind of fell into, into a career in catering as opposed to a, a job in catering via, via the army. So the application took about, I think it was just about eighteen months in, in total and in the meantime I had to earn a living. Because I’d worked in the, in the, in the school kitchens as I mentioned earlier, it was quite easy for me using the reference from the school, to find a job in an hotel, which also, by accident, obviously, it gave me somewhere to live which took me away from my parents which when you’re, when you’re seventeen, sixteen, seventeen years old is quite a bonus.
02:07 I found myself in a society, if you like, which, which really looked after me as, as an individual and gave me really great opportunities to, to do different things like scuba diving, rock climbing, abseiling, mountaineering, which you’re not gonna get in the, in the average, average British hotel but, you know, I think the army is a bit of a young man’s game. I did it till I was about twenty-four and then got out into what I call now, a proper job.
02:32 I left the army and I was kind of expecting to find a job as a head chef and I bumped into this, this fantastic gentleman called Ken Lewis, who was the operations manager for, for another contract kitchen company in East Anglia. He interviewed me and we got on like a house on fire immediately and took me on as catering manager rather than head chef of, of a, a contract for Royal Sun Alliance in Ipswich. I wasn’t ready for the job, he knew that, I knew that, but because he liked me he really bought into me and I spent the first year, half of the first year on training courses, learning how to manage people, how, learning how to manage myself and how, learning how to manage my, my clients and my customers. Looking back on it that probably was the most significant career break that I had and I’ve never been more convinced by the industry I’m in than I am now. The kitchen industry goes, goes across all sorts of different spectrums, be it the high street restaurants, hotels and of course contract catering. But the huge advantage of, of contract catering is that the work, life balance is, is so much better.
03:35 The brilliant part of that, being part of a hotel or a contract catering company is, you don’t get pigeonholed into one precise science, you become an accountant, you have to be an accountant who does lots of other things too and that’s great, it teaches you many other skills that if you decide to try something different, you know, the all, these all, these all little bits, all, all add up and make you a better person than, than you would be just focussing in on one precise part of the industry.