From Classroom to Kitchen
It’s not just on the pitch at Sandy Park where top class performances are being put in; off the field the results have been just impressive this season.
Delivering perfection is top of the agenda for Sandy Park’s Head Chef, Denis Turner, who has been helping to feed not only the hopes of the Exeter Chiefs rugby team, but also an extensive array of customers who have been dining at the Westcountry’s Premier Banqueting & Conferencing Centre.
Whether it’s feeding thousands on match-days or more intimate affairs such as a Gourmet Evening with Michelin-star chef Michael Caines MBE, every occasion is catered for by Denis and his hard-working team.
With the Sandy Park kitchens undergoing a major transformation last summer as part of a £10 million redevelopment, so the opportunity to move the whole catering operation onto a higher level has taken place.
As Denis is quick to point out, producing high end cooking is for him just as important as Head Coach Rob Baxter and his Chiefs team collecting their on-field rewards.
“Like the Chiefs have to get results on the pitch, my team has to be equally as successful off it,” explains Denis in his broad Scouse twang. “At times it can be a very tough environment, but to reach the standards we expect you have to be willing to push yourself and those around you.
“Personally, I’m delighted with the work that we’re producing because catering for the numbers that we do is never easy, but it’s the hard work and dedication of the team around me that is helping to drive our standards up and up.”
Among those helping to raise the Sandy Park bar is 21-year-old Commis Chef, Sam Elliott, who has been working on the guidance of Denis for the past four years.
Having first hooked up at Padbrook Park Golf and Country Club, Denis and Sam have forged a strong partnership that has seen the aspiring chef move seamlessly from the classroom into the heat of the Sandy Park kitchen.
Initially recruited on an NVQ Level 1 & 2 Apprenticeship in Catering, Sam has matured like a fine wine and has established himself as a young chef with a highly promising future ahead of him.
“Sam’s a very competent chef and has a real natural ability to cook,” added Denis. “For me, it’s been great to have someone so enthusiastic, not just about the food, but within the kitchen as a whole work alongside me.
“I’ve no doubt that in time Sam could well reach the very top end of the business. Already he has come on so much in terms of his development and working with people like that of Michael Caines will only add to his talent.”
Not surprisingly, Sam’s ambition to take his abilities to the next level have not gone unnoticed and in a matter of weeks, the Bradninch-based chef will take up a new position at the well-renowned ‘Jack In The Green’ on the outskirts of Exeter.
“It’s a great opportunity for Sam,” continued Denis. “We spoke a lot about him moving to the ‘Jack In the Green’ and working with their Head Chef, Matt Mason. In my eyes it’s the next stage of his progression and I’ve no doubt he will continue to flourish.
“Of course I’m disappointed that he’s moving on – particularly as we’ve enjoyed a great working relationship for a number of years – but I understand exactly where he wants to go and I’m glad that I’ve been able to help advance his career, especially here at Sandy Park.”