Focus on Steve Lathaen - Catering Manager, Calke Abbey
I oversee anything to do with food and drink, including suppliers, producing the food, serving it, staff recruitment, catering projects and liaising with other departments within the National Trust. I've got a head chef, sous chef, bakers and so on in place, but I dive in when needed.
I wanted to be a cook as a young lad, so I took a general catering course at college then worked as a commis chef in hotels for a couple of years. I worked front of house and then became a barman in a four star hotel. I have also worked in pubs as an assistant manager and ran three pubs as manager before going back in to hotels where I honed my knowledge in F&B control, deliveries and stock control.
About seven years ago I moved to the East Midlands and worked as a temporary agency chef here at Calke Abbey. I then took the job of head chef, increased the business, improved procedures and was promoted to catering manager about four and a half years ago.
I like working at the National Trust because it's a people company. I feel appreciated – there's a great atmosphere. I also like the variety of work, the fact the clientele are all different and of course the sociable hours. I'm the gaffer, so I work longer from 8.30am to 6pm, but most of the chefs do 8am to 4.30pm. Career development is readily available, my next step would be as property manager or a regional role.
What's my secret? You have to be hard-working, have good customer service skills and the ability to develop a relationship with local suppliers. I just love the buzz of the kitchen and seeing food go out and people enjoying it.