The Staff Canteen Live 2021: Networking Lunch at Opheem

The Staff Canteen

Aktar Islam and his team treated our guests and sponsors to a sumptuous lunch today, as we hosted our latest networking lunch at Michelin-starred Opheem in Birmingham.

The setting was most welcoming, allowing chefs and suppliers to network in a relaxed, intimate environment.



Tandoori carrot, lentil pakora, chutneys

Orkney scallop, tandoor spices, apple, charcoal

Achaari jersey royal, tamarind

Milk Loaf Course

Blade of beef, pumpkin, dhal

Alphonso mango, lime


Guests were welcomed with a glass of bubbles, followed by a tasting menu designed especially by Aktar using ingredients provided by the food suppliers backing the event.  


Our guest list was as exciting as ever, with the following chefs in attendance: 

  • Leo Kattou, head chef at Simpsons
  • Michael Blade, senior sous-chef of Upstairs by Tom Shepherd
  • Paul Foster, chef owner of Salt
  • Kray Treadwell, chef owner of 670 Grams
  • Paul Taylor, executive chef at The Hilton
  • Olivier Briault, pastry development chef at The Edgbaston
  • Ryan McVay, chef owner of The Calabash Tree
  • Tim Harrison, head chef at Le Petit Bois
  • Pete Jackson, head chef at Carters of Moseley
  • Lewis Walker, chef lecturer and deputy head of The College of Food, Birmingham
  • Adam Maddock, head chef at The Elms Hotel
  • Laurence Henry, chef owner of The Canal Turn at the Island Quarter, Nottingham
  • David Hall, head chef at Whistlers Chipping Norton
  • Ange Adamo, chef owner, Tutto Aposto
  • Dan Cavell, chef owner, Tailors Restaurant
  • Philli Armittage-Mattin, chef owner of Nutshell Food, cookbook author and content creator


Sponsoring the event were ChefWorks, joined by Diversey (Zenith Hygiene), Koppert Cress, and Udale Speciality Foods.

What the guests said

Talking about the menu, Philli Armittage-Mattin said: "I loved the lunch. It's so inspirational to see how Aktar uses flavours that he knows from his home and takes it to a new level, taking you on a journey through spice. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before. 

"It's also so inspirational to be with all the other chefs in the industry, networking and seeing how everyone is getting on post-lockdown, post-everything - so many new restaurant openings, everyone is ready and hitting the ground running."

Not only that, she said, but "it's always great to meet sponsors, people who are passionate about food and help us do our daily jobs. We couldn't do half of what we do without the produce, the uniforms, and without suppliers' knowledge. Without their passion, we can't be as good as we can be."

Asked if she would recommend others attend a TSC networking lunch, she said, "100 percent. The Staff Canteen are a really unique group where you're able to interact with so many different chefs and bring the chefs to these events and create a community within the chef network. That is really unique."

Meanwhile, Ryan McVay of The Calabash Tree said the lunch was "a great experience," where he "got to meet some great people and eat some amazing food." 

"Anyone in the hospitality industry should be in and around these events. You make some great contacts," from fellow chefs to potential new suppliers.

For him, the highlight of the day was to have been sat at a table of people he had never met before, "learning from them, understanding their experiences and their take on the food and the food itself." 

"That social aspect has been really good," he said. 

"I wish I had my notepad with me because so many things are going through my head," he laughed. 

Ange Adamo of Tutto Aposto said that she had been very nervous at the idea of attending the lunch, "because when I read the email, I could only pick out two people I knew.

"But it was really great to speak to people, to get to know other chefs that aren't from Birmingham, to understand what they do and that there are different paths to go down - it's not just 'restaurant, I'm a head chef, I'm a business owner,' so it was really good to network in that way."

Lewis Walker of UCB said: "It's fantastic to connect with the industry, to hear what's going on in restaurants and hotels at different levels today.

"It's been really interesting hearing about people's challenges with staffing, recruitment and retention of staff. But also, it's fantastic to see that continued passion and interest in new chefs coming through, training and developing the sector."

Helping to build a community of chefs through networking events, he added, "is absolutely vital."

On having sponsors sitting at the table with chefs, giving them the opportunity to talk about their product, he said: "At the end of the day, there's no such thing as a free meal. Everything is business-related, we're all in this for business. 

"I've always said that professional cookery is all about making money, and if it's not, it's a hobby. We're all here for a reason, we're all here for business. I'm here to promote education and training, you guys are here to promote the industry. You've got a business agenda as well, as has Aktar, as have ChefWorks and Koppert Cress. 

"So we're all here in business terms, but The Staff Canteen has a really broad perspective of the whole industry nationwide," adding that "it's great to link in with that wider network and to understand what's going on nationwide.

"It's always good to have new contacts, and from my perspective to give students the open innovation across a lot of different suppliers and a lot of different ideas." 

Jenna Hartley from ChefWorks-Bragard said that as a sponsor, "it's been so good to actually sit down and speak to all the chefs almost one-on-one and moving around the table, seeing this incredible place and eating this food, it's been a fantastic day, I think it's really been beneficial to get to see them all and for them to find out that Bragard is now part of ChefWorks."

As a means of starting a conversation, she said: "for me, it's about meeting people in the area that I cover, following up any requests that they've got - it's just building the relationship, which is really important."

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th November 2021

The Staff Canteen Live 2021: Networking Lunch at Opheem