For all chefs, having a stress-free supply chain is crucial. While it’s probably the case that sourcing equipment, stock and washing supplies is not high on the list of reasons that chefs enter the profession, it remains a vital back-of-house function that enables a brigade to work effectively.
“I want a supplier to understand the importance of getting the best ingredients on the plate,” says Ray Brown, director of food at Geronimo Inns. “It’s important that you never burn bridges and that you try to build a long-term relationship with your suppliers.”
A few years ago, Brown had prepared John Dory for his Christmas Day service only to find his sous chef had used it all for fish and chips. Luckily, the chef was able to call on his seafood supplier to help him out at short notice, thereby saving the day (and everyone’s Christmas meal into the bargain).
Poor suppliers go hand in hand with badly performing restaurants. “Things such as overcharging are often quickly passed on to the customers,” says Brown. With value an ever-present factor in diners’ thinking, selecting an unnecessarily expensive supplier can lead to a restaurant pricing itself out of the competition, while unreliable equipment can cause kitchens a massive headache mid-service.
The annual Chefs’ Choice Awards are here to highlight those suppliers, brands, wholesalers and manufacturers who are both consistent and excellent. There are 21 separate categories, voted for by hundreds of chefs from businesses including Brasserie Blanc, Gingerman Group, The Fat Duck, Pizarro, Stovell’s, Mission Burrito, Lima, Loves, Bath Priory, Loungers and Cubitt House, among others. So take a moment to whisk through and have a look at the leading lights among culinary suppliers.
Heinz comes out on top once again in the condiment category, with Colman’s (Unilever) and HP highly commended. Elsewhere, Unilever wins in the category of Best Stock with its Knorr brand; others that are highly rated by chefs include stocks from Essential Cuisine and True Foods. The frozen category sees Birds Eye take first place, followed by Boiron and Jus-Rol, respectively.
In the Chocolate category, Valrhona and Amedei come highly commended while Barry Callebaut wins overall, maintaining its top position from last year’s awards. Similarly, Villeroy & Boch wins the Best Tableware Supplier category for another year; Churchill and Steelite are highly commended in the same group.
In the Best Drinks Supplier category, Bibendum triumphs and Matthew Clark and Enotria do well to follow in second place. Coca-Cola wins the soft drinks group, but two new entries – Fentimans and Fever-Tree – are both highly commended. Italy dominates in the coffee category with illy taking first place. As a runner-up Lavazza continues the Italian trend, but is joined by Nespresso, from Nestlé. Best Bottled Water goes to Hildon, with San Pellegrino and Strathmore Spring both highly commended.
Following on from last year, Global remains top dog in the knives category, making it a winner for five consecutive years. MAC has fought off the competition to stay in second place, but is also joined by Victorinox. In equipment distribution, Nisbets takes the prize, with CCS and Bunzl Lockhart following hard on its heels. The Best Combi Oven title is retained by Rational, with Blue Seal and Convotherm in second place.
Bourgeat is named as the Best Pan brand, though Vogue and Mauviel are not far off the top spot, being highly commended. First place in the cooking range category is snapped up by Falcon, with Blue Seal and Hobart Bonnet the next most popular choices. In terms of gadgets, Thermomix is regarded as the best for a second year, while Pacojet and Vitamix are runners-up.
Falcon narrowly misses out on another first place in the Best Equipment Brand category, being pipped to the post by Hobart. However, Falcon is a runner-up alongside Robot Coupe.
Aubrey Allen, meanwhile, reclaims the top spot as Best Meat Supplier after being highly commended last year. Following in the same category are Fairfax Meadow and Select Butchery, which are both worthy runners-up. Best Fruit & Veg Supplier, this year’s new category, is won by Fresh Direct. Highly commended in the same category are Reynolds and Natoora.
M&J Seafood takes the crown in the category of Best Fish Supplier, while last year’s winner, Direct Seafoods, takes second place along with Flying Fish Seafoods
In the best foodservice supplier category Turners Fine Foods is named overall winner, with both 3663 and Woods Foodservice picking up highly commended gongs. Micros collects the top award as best EPoS supplier; joint second are pointOne and TISSL.
Chefs’ Choice Awards 2014: The winners
- Best Meat Supplier
Winner - Aubrey Allen
Highly commended - Fairfax Meadow; Select Butchery
- Best Drinks Supplier
Winner - Bibendum
Highly commended - Matthew Clark; Enotria
- Best Equipment Distributor
Winner - Nisbets
Highly commended - CCS; Bunzl Lockhart
- Best Foodservice Company
Winner - Turners Fine Foods
Highly commended - 3663; Woods Foodservice
- Best EPoS Supplier
Winner - Micros
Highly commended - TISSL; pointOne
- Best Combi Oven
Winner - Rational
Highly commended - Blue Seal; Convotherm
- Best Knife Supplier
Winner - Global Knives
Highly commended - MAC; Victorinox
- Best Fish Supplier
Winner - M&J Seafood
Highly commended - Flying Fish Seafoods; Direct Seafoods
- Best Cooking Range
Winner - Falcon
Highly commended - Blue Seal; Hobart Bonnet
- Best Pan
Winner - Bourgeat
Highly commended - Vogue; Mauviel
- Best Tableware Supplier
Winner - Villeroy & Boch
Highly commended - Churchill; Steelite
- Best Gadget
Winner - Thermomix
Highly commended - Pacojet; Vitamix
- Best Equipment Brand
Winner - Hobart
Highly commended - Falcon; Robot Coupe
- Best Stock
Winner - Knorr
Highly commended - Essential Cuisine; True Foods
- Best Bottled Water
Winner - Hildon
Highly commended - San Pellegrino; Strathmore Spring
- Best Chocolate
Winner - Barry Callebaut
Highly commended - Valrhona; Amedei
- Best Condiment Brand
Winner - Heinz
Highly commended - Colman’s; HP
- Best Frozen Food
Winner - Birds Eye
Highly commended - Boiron; Jus-Rol
- Best Fruit & Veg Supplier
Winner - Fresh Direct
Highly commended - Reynolds; Natoora
- Best Soft Drink
Winner - Coca-Cola
Highly commended - Fever-Tree; Fentimans
- Best Coffee
Winner - illy
Highly commended - Lavazza; Nespresso