Gareth Billington, executive head chef at Goodison Park – home to Everton Football Club – has not only a notched up a string of wins at some of the catering world’s biggest competitions, but he has also helped lead young chefs of the future to award success.
Now, Gareth, who leads the 32-strong Sodexo Prestige catering team at the stadium, is celebrating after his latest protégée, Liverpool schoolgirl Anna Carmichael, swept to victory in one of the industry’s most hard-fought contests.
Gareth spotted Anna’s potential after she won the regional finals of the national Springboard Futurechef 2014 competition and trained her extensively in the run up to the final - helping the 15-year-old clinch the Futurechef 2014 title and securing his reputation as one of the best chefs and mentors in the country.
Anna is the second Futurechef winner and the fifth finalist Gareth has trained and “I am as proud of their achievements as I am of my own,” he said, “because I know better than anyone the vast amount of hard work, skill and determination involved.”
In a career spanning more than 30 years, the 46-year-old, who trained at London’s renowned Garrick Club before managing the pâtisserie section of the QE2 cruise liner, has won a clutch of accolades, including the title Sodexo UK and Ireland Unit Chef of the Year.
And, as well as providing match and non-match day hospitality for the thousands of annual visitors who flock to Goodison Park, the father of two has provided the catering at events such as Royal Ascot and the Olympics and Paralympic Games 2012.
Under his leadership members of his team took the gold medal in the Contract Catering/Football Stadia category in the Salon Culinaire contest for professionals working in the catering industry and were named ‘Best In Class’ in the Major International Contract Catering/Football Stadia award category last year.
Everton FC’s catering team also saw off competition from football clubs across the UK to win the Directors Choice in the Premier League award – voted for by the board of directors of Premiership clubs during away games - at The Stadium Experience Official Football Hospitality Awards 2012.
“Gareth is not only an exceptional chef,” said Ian Simpson, general manager at Sodexo Prestige at Everton, “but he is wholly committed to sharing his skills and experience with young people in the Liverpool area.
“Sodexo Prestige does a lot of work with young chefs across the UK but Gareth is in a league of his own in terms of inspiring them and encouraging them to reach their full potential – he’s also an exceedingly nice person.”
“I have been very fortunate in being able to spend my career doing something I love,” said Gareth, “and I want to give other young people the same chance.
“It’s great to win awards and to help others win them, but it’s the day to day job that gives me the most satisfaction: it’s the continued pursuit of excellence that drives me.”