Five minutes with... Carol Haime - Tenanted Food Development Chef

Posted: 14 July 2014

Blog category: Meet the Team, Chefs

Lives: Farnham, Surrey

Education: BSc in Economics from the University of London; Level 3 Food Hygiene; Level 2 Nutrition and Special Diets Course; NVQ assessor for courses including food preparation, cooking, and hospitality and catering.

Career: Worked in the City for eight years as a foreign exchange dealer, before leaving to buy her first pub near Woking in 1995. In 2002 she took on a bigger pub in Farnham, successfully introducing a food offer for the first time. In 2012, she joined Shepherd Neame as the brewery’s first Tenanted Food Development Chef. She also contributes articles to trade magazines and newspapers in her spare time.

Selected awards: 2012: Jus-Rol British Pie Week - Pub Pie Champion; 2011: Great British Pub Awards - Pub Pie Champion; 2010: Morning Advertiser Great British Pub Awards - Pub Chef of the Year; 2009: The Publican Food and Drink Awards - Food Pub of the Year finalist; 2007: The Publican Food and Drink Awards - Pub Food Innovation of the Year

Favourite Shepherd Neame beer: Whitstable Bay Blonde Lager

Favourite non-Shepherd Neame beer: Exmoor Gold

What are your main responsibilities?
My role is to help licensees develop their food trade, whether that means building an offer from scratch or tweaking an existing one. The advice given is tailored to the individual pub’s needs and encompasses all aspects of running a successful food operation. It ranges from menu planning, design and content, pricing and costing, dish presentation, sourcing of ingredients, waste management, record keeping and health and safety, to business boosting ideas, kerb appeal, marketing and promotions, and analysing competition in the local area. I also run regular food development workshops at the brewery, where tenants are invited to come along and cook some classic pub dishes, and challenged to present them in different ways using a range of different crockery and accessories.

What does a typical day involve?
There is no typical day. About 75% of my time is spent out of the office, visiting licensees at pubs all over the South East and assessing the local competition. The other 25% is spent in the office, undertaking tasks such as working on recipe ideas, organising our next food development workshop or liaising with Beverley over menu design or other marketing materials.

What personal characteristics help you in your role?
Organisation, as I have to manage my time so carefully, since my pubs are spread out across the South East. A positive outlook, which I try and instil in the tenants, as it is essential for customers to see a smiling face behind the bar when they visit their local. My personal experience running pubs is also a big help, as I understand what the licensees are going through, and they respect my advice as I have been through it all myself.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
To see tenants successfully develop their food offer after we have worked together. I also take pride in helping enthuse a tenant who may have become a bit disillusioned because of the challenges posed by their business.  I get a real buzz from leaving them fired up and full of renewed passion.

What is tough about the job?
The logistics, as I have a lot of pubs to get round. Also, it can initially be difficult encouraging licensees who have become disillusioned by the challenges they face.

What achievements are you particularly proud of?
The food development workshops, as they enable us to reach a lot of tenants at once, and we have had some fantastic feedback from them, saying they really enjoy the chance to get out and meet their counterparts while picking up some fresh ideas. I am also very proud that some of the pubs which were experiencing challenges and have transformed their business, attribute their success to my guidance.

What attracted you to the industry?
I have always loved to cook. When I was little, I used to spend time in the kitchen with my grandmother, an amazing cook who was even offered a job at Osborne House. I was never formally trained, I just picked it up as I went along, but I think that encourages creativity. Most of our tenants are not trained chefs, and that is another way I connect with them. I feel like this role at Shepherd Neame was made for me, as I love the industry, I love food, and after so many years working in a pub, it is great to have the opportunity to travel and meet new people, and share my experience and knowledge.