Chef of Chef Works: Andrew Parker MAY 2023
Chef: Andrew Parker.
Location: Nelson, Lancashire, UK.
Social Media: @wellocksfood - Instagram
Shining a light on all things sustainable, we’re delighted to introduce our latest Chef of Chef Works – Development Chef Andrew Parker from Wellocks. Proud to source the best ingredients for some of the finest restaurants in the UK, Chef Andrew and his team at Wellocks have extended their passion for eco-friendly produce and processes to their culinary uniform with the Chef Works sustainable range. Get to know Chef Andrew in this special Green Spotlight feature……
1. Tell us about the company:
Over the last 60 years, Wellocks has become the special ingredient supplier of the UK’s finest restaurants. We are dedicated to sourcing the most exceptional ingredients from our network of independent growers and producers, from the everyday basics to the most exotic elements of a dish. We always take great pride in helping chefs achieve their goals and encourage them to push the boundaries of gastronomy with our unique ingredients.
2. Describe your role and team:
My role as Head of Warehouse & Production means I oversee the warehouse operation including our in-house production teams for our Prep Production, Pasta Production and our Specialist Care facility. Our cutting-edge facilities allow us to become an extension of our customer's own kitchens, with our expert teams preparing our ingredients to their exact specifications. I work closely with my teams to ensure regular produce benchmarking quality is performed, new products are tested and developed, and I also support our in-house customer masterclasses. My role is extremely fast-paced and allows me to be at the forefront of the hospitality industry – which is extremely exciting.
3. Looking great in your Chef Works sustainable uniform, what made you choose this eco-friendly range?
Thank you very much! I decided to choose the Chef Works sustainable uniform for our Pasta Production team because as a business we are always looking at creative solutions that benefit our community and the planet. Plus, they look incredibly smart. Our favourite is the Cannes chef coat – not only is it made from recycled plastic bottles, but it’s also lightweight and keeps us all cool in the kitchen. A must-have for us.
4. What do you love most about working at Wellocks?
I have now been working at Wellocks for 6 years, initially starting my journey within the Purchasing Team before progressing into my current role. The thing I love most about my role is the great relationships I have been able to build with our customers and producers. I am lucky to work closely with some of the best Michelin star chefs and restaurants in the country, which inspires me on a daily basis.
5. Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking started by watching my mum in the kitchen when I was growing up and loving hearty Northern home cooking. Once I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a chef, I started as a Commis and had the opportunity to work in numerous prestigious restaurants moving up to Head Chef over 15 years. Working with several incredible chefs, I was able to develop my knowledge and skills, finding my main passion within the pastry section.
6. How has being a chef supported your career in your current role?
My previous role as a chef has gone hand in hand with my career at Wellocks and current role. Being a chef has given me an excellent understanding of the industry, and the needs and wants of a chef. This has enabled me to transfer all my knowledge to now support chefs with high-quality products and services that enable them to create incredible dishes.
Chef Michael Wignall's A5 Hygo Prefecture Wagyu dish.
7. Why is sustainability in the kitchen important to you?
Being able to support our customers and producers on their sustainability journey is incredibly important to us as a business. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the introduction of initiatives including the Michelin Guide’s Green Stars, which highlights restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices.
Here are some of the steps we have taken to become more sustainable. Firstly, starting with our uniform – we’re proud to dress our team in the sustainable collection by Chef Works. Made from recycled fabrics, this is really important to us. We have transitioned many of our loose fresh produce into paper bags which not only reduces our use of plastic but reduces the amount of handling and damage to the produce during transit. We have found innovative ways to reduce our food wastage, working with one of our producers who uses our Prep Production vegetable peelings to create compost, which is then used to nourish the herbs and viola flowers grown during the summer. In addition to this, we have found ways to ensure our edible waste is donated in our locally community and for any inedible waste, we have a local farmer who utilises our vegetable peelings to feed their pigs.
8. What sustainable/eco food trends are you seeing at the moment?
A key trend we are continuing to see is plant-based products. It’s been great to see the range of products continue to grow and we have some fantastic alternative milks, cheeses and even Crackd ‘The No-Egg Egg’ available for chefs.
9. Your cooking inspiration and why?
I am fortunate to work with and build relationships with some of the finest chefs across the country. I would say my main cooking inspiration would be Michael Wignall, Chef Patron of The Angel at Hetton. I was fortunate to train with Michael for 7 years and loved being part of his team. His cooking style is incredibly refined, modern and stylish – so it’s no wonder he has retained his Michelin Star for another year! I continue to work closely with Michael and his team, now as a customer to Wellocks, and have had the privilege of welcoming him to our development kitchen for several masterclasses and demonstrations.
Andrew at work in the Wellocks hi-tech kitchens.
10. You must see some extraordinary produce throughout the year, what is your favourite time of year for food and why?
Absolutely! Our warehouse sees an incredible volume of produce and ingredients coming in and out on a daily basis. Throughout the year, it’s a pleasure to see the flavours change with the seasons. My favourite time of year has to be the winter, as I love seeing chefs create rich flavoured, hearty dishes.
11. Favourite fresh ingredient?
This would be foraged Cepe mushrooms. They are unequivocally one of the stars of the mushroom world as they’re wonderfully versatile to use, a big hitter on the umami scale and have an awesome deep mushroomy flavour.
12. Your favourite dish you’ve seen this season and why? (We love tasting notes!)?
We recently ran a competition on Instagram, asking our customers to share their Yorkshire forced rhubarb dishes with us. The winning dish was from Calvin Miller, Head Chef at Melton’s Restaurant which was Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, Spiced Pain Perdu, Marscapone, Blood Orange, Yoghurt and Almond.
This beautiful dish really stood out for its complexity and depth of flavour. Our Yorkshire forced rhubarb is grown by Robert Tomlinson in Pudsey and is another favourite seasonal ingredient of mine. The Tomlinson family has been growing rhubarb on the same farm since the 1880s, and to this day it is still a family tradition. The roots are brought into the forcing sheds and kept in total darkness at a constant temperature of 13℃. This forces the growth, which is so fast that you can often hear the creaking and popping of the stalks as they shoot up to find precious light. Without the light, there is no photosynthesis within the plants, so the sugar stays within the stalks and produces a much sweeter and tender rhubarb than outdoor summer rhubarb.
13. Favourite things to do when not cooking?
My family are incredibly important to me, so I spend time with them and share my love of cooking and food with my two young children. I also love to travel and experience different cuisines across the world.
Chef Tom Brown's Crab Bun with Spring Cabbage dish using the freshest ingredients from Wellocks.
14. Your greatest food indulgence?
This would have to be a tapas grazing platter with a glass of wine, ideally next to the beach in the sun!
15. And finally, your all-time best culinary tip:
My all-time best culinary tip would be to always have sharp knives, an essential in professional and home kitchens. They make it easier to elevate your knife technique and ultimately, they give you more control and reduce the risk of hurting yourself.
Photography: Steve Bootle, food images and interiors courtesy of Wellocks