Dan Wilkes Senior Food Development

Senior Food Development Manager, Daniel Wilkes, reveals what it’s like to have one of the tastiest jobs in the business

In every kitchen across our 1,700 pubs and restaurants, our chefs serve up delicious dishes daily - with a little help from our Food Development Team. It may be behind the scenes but it’s one of the tastiest jobs in our business!

Working in this team means you have to know your onions from your shallots! The team work behind the scenes to ensure that the product sourcing, training and supply chain behind the operation means that the dishes they have dreamed up, then get delivered to happy guests in our pubs and restaurants across the country.

Daniel Wilkes, Senior Food Development Manager at Mitchells & Butlers, explains the process of making sure a dish is perfected before it makes it to a customer’s plate. “The team and I tend to work on a brief for a particular topic such as a summer menu for one of three brands that I work on; Toby Carvery, Harvester and Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery. Upon receiving the brief, we then work up a proposal and prepare initial ideas for the menu, with costings.”

Once that is completed, the team then spends time cooking, developing and refining these dishes, so they can be presented to the brand teams in a variety of food shows to gather feedback. Daniel explains that the dishes they create are often unique to the individual brand, “Working in our Food Team, we make sure that the dishes that get developed by our Development Chefs, reflect the brand, kitchen facilities and food skill levels of the team who will be serving up the dishes to our guests. I think it is really important to create unique dishes for our brands that you can’t get anywhere else, from the jerk ribs in Harvester to the miso rice bowl in All Bar One. Dishes like these showcase the chef’s skill and flair and can often become iconic dishes with our guests and teams.”

In addition to developing the menu items, the team looks for ways to tap into the latest dining and consumer trends and looking at ways to adopt them for each brand. “We regularly research trends and gather inspiration from all over, to try and understand the appropriate time for a flavour, trend or dish to land in our market.”

Daniel’s job involves constantly tweaking and improving dishes and subtly evolving each brand to keep pace with trends, but when a brand needs a complete refresh, Daniel and his team play a major part. “One of the most exciting projects I worked on recently was ‘Harvester 2020’. Our team worked tirelessly for a year, looking at every aspect of the dining experience starting with the menu, even researching bespoke crockery, glassware and uniforms. We worked together with the Harvester Team to build something really special that has moved the brand on tremendously.” Although not one to pick favourites, Daniel explains that he is very proud of one particular development, “I’m really proud of our new extensive ribs section that is on our main menu. We showcase regular ribs, large racks, 1kg smoked racks, half kilo beef ribs and my favourite, the jerk spiced ribs with spiced rum BBQ sauce!”

For Daniel, there is no better feeling than creating dishes that go on to become successful that chefs enjoy cooking and guests enjoy eating. However, it’s not just the Food Development Team that are at the steering wheel of the menus at Mitchells and Butlers, as we regularly host ‘takeover days’ for each of the pubs and restaurants, where our Retail Support Team can also have their say on the dishes they will be serving up to their guests.

And spending his work hours surrounded by food hasn’t put him off, in fact Daniel often experiences his dishes as a guest by visiting his local Stonehouse to treat his family to a pizza and sometimes may even indulge in his guilty pleasure - a midweek Toby Carvery roast!

If you want to become part of a team that is leading the way in Food Development, see our vacancies: http://www.mbcareersandjobs.com.

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