Who are Chefs Catering Northwest: what we do and why
Back in 2019, Mrs Gemma Gardner – a former member of the military – was invited to join a local organisation known as ‘Boost for Business’.
Boost (as it is known by business owners) is a service provided by Lancashire County Council to help businesses grow; become more profitable; and increase the number of jobs available in the wider community. During her work for Boost, Gemma mentored 2 young chefs. She saw promise in their ideas and creativity in their cooking, such that she invited them to join her in a business venture – a café in Skerton, Lancaster, called ‘Food for Thought’.
Sadly, in December 2019 the chefs decided they no longer wanted to provide catering services and left. Gemma was understandably devastated by their decision. The company – ‘Chefs Catering’ – had bookings into the New Year, including providing meals and cooking opportunities for young people in local schools. How was she to meet the contractual arrangements with no Chefs?
Gemma’s background in the Armed Forces compelled her to continue to serve others. She could not renege on her promises to the customers. Although it was the festive season, she enrolled on a course at the local Kendall College and gained a qualification in catering. Gemma became a chef to ensure that those who had put their faith in her company received the services she had promised to deliver. She operated under the business name of ‘Chefs Catering Northwest’.
Through the early months of 2020, Gemma cooked whilst her family and friends assisted. Chef’s Catering Northwest (based at Heysham Golf Club House) quickly became established as a ‘go to’ provider of fine dining, serving healthy and hearty meals using only the best of locally sourced ingredients. Gemma’s vision was to have:
In January 2020, Adam Carson – a chef by trade – joined Chefs Catering Northwest. Initially Adam was involved in the catering side of operations, though latterly has assumed responsibilities for ‘Accounts and Book-Keeping’. As the company has grown, Adam has undertaken a variety of roles – even including cooking!
February 2020 saw Gemma’s husband – Gareth Gardner – become more involved in the business. He took over the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO); effectively becoming the titular ‘boss’ of the organisation. Gemma redefined her role as that of Director of Operations and Sales Executive. More chefs joined the enterprise and Silverdale Golf Club House became the second venue to play host to Chefs Catering Northwest. Then a near catastrophe occurred – in March, Covid 19 and ‘Lock Down’ (whereby people’s movements in and around the community were restricted, to avoid spreading the airborne disease) was introduced by the national government.
What do we do?
Prior to Covid 19 rearing its ugly head, Gemma and the rapidly growing team had started to introduce a new service operating from the Heysham Golf Club base. They had realised there were many isolated and vulnerable people in the community, who struggled to get regular nourishing meals. As a means of ‘giving back’ to the community that had supported Chefs Catering Northwest in its early days, Gemma and the team introduced a ‘Cloud Waitress’ service whereby elderly people and other vulnerable individuals, their carers or family and friends, could order a hot meal prepared by a fully qualified chef, to be delivered to their homes at a very reasonable price.
Lest anyone think that this service was simply a ‘meals on wheels’ operation, it’s important to say that more than just a hot 2 course meal (priced just £8.00) was on offer. Those making the deliveries were happy to undertake other tasks on behalf of their customers. These included sourcing groceries and other provisions not readily available near to the person’s home; providing ‘celebration’ packages for VE day; afternoon teas for Father’s Day; and small chores about the home.
By April the ‘Chefs Catering Northwest at Home’ service was growing at a vast rate. More staff were needed as demand from the community grew. There are now 7 chefs; an Operations Manager; Administrations and Sales Assistants; Team Leaders at the (now) 3 catering venues. Thurnham Hall, a beautiful old gentleman’s residence turned ‘Diamond Resort’ award-winning self-catering holiday apartments and restaurant (sited in landscaped gardens and offering gymnasium and swimming pool facilities between Lancaster and Cockerham on the A588) was added to the already impressive venues catered for by Chefs Catering Northwest . All facilities at Thurnham Hall– including the Chefs Catering Northwest restaurant – are open to the public.
Chefs Catering Northwest’s Mission Statement has been clearly spelt out:
The offering made by Chefs Catering Northwest now includes:
- 3 fully serviced prestigious catering venues providing fine affordable dining
- A ‘cloud waitress’ service that provides local residents with ‘dial and order to home’ catering, whereby hot meals can be ordered in advance throughout the week
- A regular ‘hot meals at home’ service for elderly and vulnerable people, with additional support provided as required.
The epitome of the way in which Chef’s Catering Northwest provides ‘additional support as required’, was recently demonstrated by Apprentice Sales Manager, Georgia Clements.
A vulnerable gentleman in the community placed his usual order for a hot breakfast and requested that his shopping be fetched for him. He was in a state of extreme distress, the battery in his oximeter * having gone flat. Georgia did no less that order a brand new oximeter for him, as local supermarkets and pharmacies did not stock them. The gentleman need not worry about his batteries going flat for some considerable time. A spare set of batteries was also procured!
Chef Catering Northwest is no ordinary catering company. As Gemma – Director of Operations – explains: