Ollie Keenan, a chef for Sodexo’s corporate services business in the North East, scooped bronze in the 2020 Sodexo UK and Ireland Chef of the Year competition in March.

It was his first time to compete in the live cook-off, which took place at the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering (HRC) event in ExCel London.

Ollie, representing Ireland and Northern Ireland, impressed the judges with his take on a menu using ‘Future 50’ ingredients. 75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species and ‘Future 50’ are plant-based foods identified by Sodexo’s partners, WWF and Knorr, that need to be incorporated more into daily food consumption to boost the nutritional value of meals while reducing the environmental impact of our food supply.

The competitors had 90 minutes to produce three dishes and Ollie won the bronze for his starter of wild mushroom and wild rice ravioli, broad bean salad with mushroom consommé, followed by roast poussin, viscera croquette, pea purée, kale, bacon lardon and chicken jus and a dessert of poached pear, pear foam, pear mousse, chocolate and ginger fondant.

Sodexo has already adopted recipes across its business in the UK and Ireland incorporating a selection of the Future 50 Foods, aligning with a growing consumer demand for healthier meal options that taste great and are responsibly sourced.

Ollie Keenan, who comes from Ballinode in Co. Monaghan, said: “There was a lot of hard work by a lot of people to ensure that I had all the right equipment and ingredients, so I am very grateful to them for their help and support. It was my first time to compete at an event of this size and calibre, so it was a little stressful at first, but once it began, I quickly found my rhythm. The general concept of my menu was the same as that for my All-Ireland win, but there was a lot of rethinking and refinement to bring it up to the next level.

“It was also the first time for Keith Daly, my commis chef, who gave me terrific support, so I was able to relax, knowing he was in my corner. Even though you always want to do better, it’s still a great feeling to bring home a medal from a high-level culinary competition like this,” Ollie continued.

Ollie was one of nine chefs from across Sodexo UK & Ireland who competed against each other in the live cook off, which was won by Ronnel Nulud, hospitality head chef for Sodexo’s Energy and Resources division.

As well as the other finalists, Ollie also received a personalised chef jacket, a year’s subscription to the Craft Guild of Chefs and an exclusive invitation to a bespoke innovation training workshop run by competition sponsors Rational and Vegetarian Express.

Julianne Forrestal, craft development chef for Sodexo Ireland, said: “Ollie’s dedication to Sodexo’s sustainable future has been demonstrated clearly through his food, which was delivered to a high standard. All the chefs this year rose to the challenge of presenting plant-forward dishes, which is a testament to their determination, training and the support of their Sodexo colleagues.”

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