‘I always wanted to be a chef,’ says Gemma. ‘I come from a big family, being the eldest of seven I was always helping my mum at mealtime.’
Immediately drawn to art and cooking at school, Gemma’s first experience of the workplace was in a department store restaurant at 14 years old. She joined Sodexo 20 years ago after a successful college placement.
‘My first role was working as commis chef at the members' restaurants at various racecourses across the south of the UK. ‘I worked in the role for a year before I progressed to chef de partie, then to head chef, and then last year I was promoted executive chef. This was all down to the support and investment from Sodexo.’
Having worked at every Royal Ascot for 20 years and alongside Michelin-star chefs who have helped her develop her skills, Gemma is determined to challenge negative perceptions of contract catering.
‘I would like to change people's mind-sets with regard to how they stereotype contract catering as being based on high-volume, low-quality menus and ingredients.
The contract catering industry has seen a huge step change in recent years, with innovation and quality at the forefront of menu design and concepts that we deliver across our retail, fine dining and conference banqueting businesses.’
Last year Gemma’s dedication was rewarded with the Chef Award at the Cost Sector Catering Awards and a place on the shortlist of Chef of the Year in the Foodservice Cateys.