Because we cater for nearly 100 schools, we’ve got a pretty slick team. Behind the smiles you’ll discover a bunch of seriously committed professionals who know how to mind their peas and queues.
A real family of people who have your interests and appetites at heart, who go to the ends of the earth to bring you a variety of tastes and loads of specials, jam-packed into mouth-watering menus.
Ken Navin was drawn to the glamorous lights of the restaurant business at the age of 21 and became a trainee manager in what was West London’s first Pasta Bar in Fulham Road, serving icons like Sebastian Coe and Bill Wyman.
Two years later, after a stint at the Hard Rock Café and Tony Romas, Ken opened his pasta restaurant, Spaghetti Classics of Camberwell, followed by a second site in East Dulwich. A comedy and jazz club soon followed, attracting stars such as Harry Enfield and Al Murray.
Ken broadened his focus to work for companies such as Regent Inns and City Centre Restaurants, managing themed bars and restaurants like Café Uno and Harvey Floorbangers.
Ken then decided to venture into contract catering with Charlton House, an award winning company with fabulous food and service standards. Managing the American Election night function at the American Embassy stands out as a highlight of his career with this company.
Ken became drawn to Innovate when we were a young company with only five sites, offering him the opportunity to be part of an extraordinary venture that amalgamated his experience and noteworthy skill sets. Ten years and over 100 sites later, Ken has accomplished great things with the company.
‘I am proud of what we have achieved within this industry. Having the flexibility to bring all of our high street experience into a thriving market has enabled us to grow the business, mostly on word-of-mouth recommendations, and helped us achieve the prestigious title of Contract Caterer of the Year for the Education Sector in 2012.’ – Ken Navin
Ken is based in Hillingdon, making it easily accessible to visit all of our sites … from Hull to Plymouth, ensuring that we make a difference to that small part of school life that we all remember … the lunchtime meal!
When he isn’t tackling the challenges of catering for students, you’ll find Ken serving and volleying on the tennis courts of Brunel University.
Director of Food & Product Development
From a young age, whilst all the other kids were carrying pencil cases and hockey sticks, Karl was carrying a rolling pin to College, where he learnt his trade and won a scholarship to France. Karl served his apprenticeship as a Commis Chef – the only English boy in a brigade of 20 chefs!
Upon his return to England, Karl worked his way up the ranks of various organisations such as Marriott, Terence Conran, Baxter Storey and with many independent restaurants and country clubs, picking up the odd rosette and BBC regional chef award along the way!
Karl joined Innovate in 2012 as he wanted to do something completely different: catering for students was far removed from what he had done before, but equally demanding, since students are as fickle as restaurant and hotel trades’ customers.
Today Karl leads the company ethos on food development and procurement, offering his love of cooking and incredible experience to planning and sourcing food and menus for an extremely discerning audience.
‘I would like to say I bring an innovative approach to what we do, and an alternative outlook on education catering, but still staying true to our fresh food principles.’ – Karl Hudson
Karl lives in St Georges, just South of Bristol where he spends his spare time playing a round of golf, or enjoying a wet windy walk with his two Border Collies.
Michele Callcut studied Maths at University and on leaving, went into teaching, joining an East London, comprehensive. Although she loved the kids she wasn’t cut out to become the new Jean Brodie: so she finally decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and trained as a Chartered Accountant. Not long after qualifying she joined Ericsson UK where she made her way up the ladder to become Finance Director.
When Sony and Ericsson entered a joint venture for their mobile phone businesses, Michele was made Commercial Director of UK, Eire and Malta, becoming the only female member on the Board. After 10 years at Sony Ericsson, the company relocated its HQ to Hammersmith, which signalled to Michele that it was time for a change; something different; a new challenge.
When the call came from Innovate, Michele liked the vibe of the business and the idea of moving into catering and so joined initially on an interim basis. After three years, Michele stepped up to the role of Finance Director in 2015.
‘I really enjoyed the challenge of learning the financial aspects of a totally new industry and catering is a very ‘real’ business. It’s also really satisfying to work for a business that’s adding value to young peoples’ lives and I enjoy the whole association with education which is a vocation I’ve always held dear. ‘ – Michele Callcut
Michele lives in Brook, a small village south west of Guildford. Outside of work, she enjoys yoga and the gym but – like Ken Navin – her overriding passion is for tennis. When she’s not bashing a ball she’s normally plying her three sons with food, which – she says – often feels like industrial-scale catering!
Director of Business Development
Richard’s career within the food industry began after his studies at the University of Westminster, where he studied International Business with Spanish language. Returning from his studies in Spain, (not forgetting the great food and beach of San Sebastían) Richard became a Business Development Manager for the largest food producer in the UK, Premier Foods. Richard soon became the top performer within the Cash & Carry and Food Service channel, where building great working relationships with his clients and customers was imperative. After two years service he was promoted to work within their marketing department at their head office in St Albans. This new role geared Richard towards the retail arm of the business, as his role switched to focus on the ‘Top Four’; Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s.
This experience lent itself towards Richard’s next role as an Area Manager on behalf of Sainsbury’s. Working for arguably one of Britain’s best retailers helped shape Richard’s experience further. With an eye for customer service, understanding the importance of great food standards, and by having the necessary character to work with all levels of customer, Richard found himself knocking on the contract catering doors of innovate Services and being welcomed in.
‘On a personal level I have always been into food and feeding people. I have never seen food as simply fuel, and instead more of an experience to be enjoyed. When looking back its not surprising to any of those that know me that I work within the food industry. Good, honest, and fresh food is important to me and plays a key role in my life in and out of work.’
‘Throughout my career I have always had one thing in mind, to always keep myself challenged. Contract catering was an industry I had no significant prior experience, however I felt that I could bring a lot to the table. My initial perceptions of Innovate were simple, a contract catering company within the education sector that puts their food and customers first whilst underpinning them with retail concepts that work. My perceptions were right. I personally only work for companies that I believe in and can honestly sell their products and services to my customers and staff I manage. Innovate is certainly up there with the best!’ – Richard Corbyn
Outside of work Richard is a devoted father of his little boy and loves spending his time with his small family. With a keen interest in photography you will always find Richard taking snaps of food and displays on his journeys. If he forgets his camera at home his partner is somewhat overjoyed, and its rather funny how often his battery charger ‘miraculously’ disappears from time to time.
Bryan Lygate started work with Innovate in 2013 and was instantly surprised at how the vibrant and friendly approach translated into service with a smile on a daily basis. Having previously worked in FMCG, retail sales and quick service restaurants his experience is invaluable to Innovate.
Bryan is located in the West Midlands which gives him a daily opportunity to drop into schools and catch up with our teams, customers and clients. Bryan enjoys getting into the thick of things, giving the best service and gathering feedback from Innovate’s customers (particularly the amazing ideas that our young customers will suggest).
When Bryan is not working he enjoys keeping active snowboarding and going to the gym.
Nitin’s career in Hospitality began after his Master’s in Hotels and Business Management from Isle of Man. As a part of the curriculum Nitin had to undergo professional training where he joined Marriott hotel as a Trainee Manager and worked front of house for food and beverage. Before the training could finish, Nitin was offered a Manager position within the hotel managing the Bars and Restaurant. He spent 8 years working for Marriott as a Food and Beverage Manager over the two most prestigious locations in London (County Hall and Park Lane). Nitin has achieved numerous awards such as 2 Rosette’s, Spirit to Serve, Best Manager etc. to name a few.
His natural born talent of customer service led him to venture into the very glamourous industry of casinos. Nitin worked in the biggest and poshest casino’s in London for a further 4 years, serving Royalties, Aristocrats, Celebrities and top businessmen. It is here that his commitment to product and service got his restaurant the Best Restaurant in Britain award.
The twinkly lights of London did not stop there for him. To gain more experience in retail, he became the Lead Restaurants Manager for the biggest and most exciting shopping venue in the world, Harrods. He managed several Restaurants and dealt with over 8,000 customers a day with a huge team. His passion and commitment to his staff, his customers and his product and service managed to get him recognised by the Managing Director of Harrods, twice!
Having done Hotels, Casinos and Retail, Nitin decided it was time to move on and join a complete different sector in catering that allows a healthy work life balance. Nitin joined Innovate services in 2015 as a General Manager for one of the biggest schools in the estate. The clientele may have changed to students but the passion for service with a smile still remains the same. Everyone is served as Royalty. He has managed to transform the dining experience for students through exceptional standards of food and service and for teachers with his high end innovative canapé receptions to sit down themed inset day lunches. His hard work, commitment and overall great results have led him to become our Regional Business Manager.
“I am really pleased to have joined a company that offers growth, shares spirit of great hospitality, and works together like a family. My main aim is to contribute to the overall success of the company and its clients.
It has been a great experience so far. It is interesting to see that students are very food savvy these days and funny enough, some of them have managed to remind me of my previous demanding clientele.” – Nitin Rampal.
Outside working hours Nitin is a devoted father and loves spending time with his young family. He is a hobby chef and loves impressing his guests with his creative dishes. He also enjoys playing cricket, driving and photography.
Mike’s journey started many years ago when he was a young lad with an aunt who would make the most delicious chocolate cakes. Every chance he got he would be in her kitchen helping her mix the cakes (and yes always getting to lick the bowl clean once finished… happy memories)
This is where Mike’s love of cooking comes from and from that moment he knew he wanted to be a Chef. Whenever anybody asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he would say, without any hesitation, “A chef, of course”
After lots of hard work and many long hours perfecting his skills & working in some of the best eateries in the UK i.e. 4 star hotels in London and Edinburgh and even serving some royal family members naming no names (but think there’s a steak named after her…) he achieved his dream.
Food is what Mike is all about and has a great passion to make the customers experience the best it can be. From delicious fine dining to a humble pie served on a cold February Saturday afternoon at his local football club.
‘Working at Innovate has given me the chance to explore my creative side but also my business side. Feeding over 1000 students in one day is one of best challenges any chef could have. I truly look forward to going into work every day knowing I’m feeding the next generation of stars. Making the tastiest meals using the best ingredients is very satisfying. My journey is not over yet….and I’m looking forward to years ahead.
Just like my local football team, I’m forever striving to be the best.’ – Mike Wyatt
Mike was recently promoted to Area Manager after being a Catering Manager in a number of our schools.
As a teenager Wendy got her first part time job in a local café which started her love of all things food. She completed a 2 year catering course at college and went on to have numerous jobs in catering. Wendy has worked in a variety of catering roles, from a local greasy burger bar to cooking for 2500 people at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton and then all the way to Walt Disney World in Florida where she cooked for 30,000 people a day!
Wendy took a short break when she had her daughter and briefly went into retail management. But she missed the draw and excitement of catering and secured a job in school catering.
Wendy began working for Innovate in 2012 as a Chef Manager at Durrington High School.
After 2 and half years she was ready for her next challenge and joined the Operational Support Team as a Relief manager.
‘Having been out on the road for a year which I thoroughly enjoyed, I am now lucky to have had the opportunity to be offered an Area Manager role. I am also part of the Chefs Academy with Innovate so I’m looking forward to a new exciting year ahead.’ – Wendy Moore
After an initial foray into the insurance underwriting market upon leaving Sixth Form, Primary School Operations Manager, Robert Winterbottom took a turn in direction and set upon a degree in Hospitality and Business Management aged 21. The degree took him on a work placement with the Holiday Inn in Harrogate as part of his course, and it was here that he moved into the hotel trade.
He started a full time employment with Ramada Jarvis in Wetherby upon completion of his course, where he took a roll as Conference and Events Manager. When a job as Bar Manager at the Mercure hotel in Bramhope, Leeds came along he made the move, and this later led to promotion as Food and Beverage Manager within the same company.
Robert started employment with Innovate in May 2010 when he was employed as General Manager at Huddersfield Sixth Form College. After four years in the roll he took on the job of launching Innovates successful Primary School Business in July 2014 and in turn moving from one end of the school catering age spectrum to the other.
‘I am pleased to have overseen the growth of the Primary School business within the Innovate portfolio, we have worked very hard with pupils, parents, teachers and lunchtime staff to perfect menus for each of our sites that are both nutritionally balanced and popular.’ – Robert Winterbottom
Away from the day job Robert is a keen follower of non-league football and coaches a Women’s football team on a Sunday. He also plays cricket in the summer, as well as following his beloved Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Before he left school, Jethro Meyer had gained unprecedented knowledge and understanding of food and service in a high-paced environment, working alongside his father in their busy family restaurant. He then went on to manage restaurants around South Africa – from high-end seafood restaurants and deli’s to Steak houses catering to thousands of customers each week.
In 2005, Jethro arrived on the shores of England where he began to rekindle his love for cooking. He ran kitchens in Gastro Pubs in Surrey, first as Sous Chef and then as Head Chef until 2010 when he transferred to the front of house side of the business. Jethro took on the challenge of running a trendy cocktail bar, which kept him creative with cocktail design and provided him an outlet for his musical passions.
After five years of late nights he decided to take his career in a new direction in the Contract Catering sector with Innovate Services Ltd. He was employed to manage one of the company’s largest and most prestigious sites – George Abbot School. After successfully managing this site with over 2,000 students for three years, Jethro has taken on the broader challenges as Area Manager. He has done so with our every confidence, particularly since he built his team below him to take on the management positions. With Jethro running the area, you can look forward to real experience and knowledge in food and service in high-paced environments. And a spark of real creativity.
Anthony started his catering and hospitality journey straight out of school at a local hotel whilst completing a 2year college degree in professional cookery where he graduated top of the country. His career quickly moved forward where he gained experience at various hotels throughout the South and into managing his first contract catering position where he quickly became an Area Manager.
Whilst enjoying the hands on approach to cooking, Anthony decided to divert his career back to hotels but this time front of house, where he became Assistant Manager and finally General Manager. After several years of running hotels and event management. Anthony and his wife decided to start a family and he longed for a more family friendly career, and so he returned to contract catering within the corporate industry’s serving many high profile companies within their head offices.
Another turn in Anthony’s career came when he decided to embrace his love of teaching people how to cook, so he became an NVQ assessor specialising in professional cookery, front of house management, food safety and health and safety. This is something Anthony enjoys doing and he looks forward to ensuring all of the staff within Innovate are trained to an extremely high professional standard.
In his personal life Anthony enjoys family life with his daughter, wife and doggie. As well as running a very successful console gaming community group, holding gaming events and national tournaments.
Coming from a large Italian family there was no way Dominic wasn’t going to be passionate about food! Growing up he had no shortage of foodie role models, but it was his mother who encouraged his passion for cooking and having lived all over the world herself, inspired him to try new foods and flavours.
On leaving school, Dominic attended Thames Valley University where he attained an NVQ 3 in Professional Cookery and developed his culinary skills. This led to jobs in lots of different catering areas; gastropubs, golf courses, five-star hotels and spas, including one of London’s most prestigious hotels – The Ritz, although he still maintains his family is his toughest clientele!
When he isn’t working Dominic enjoys gardening and cooking using local and seasonal food after a browse in the local farmer’s markets. He loves to travel but really enjoys going out for a ride on his motorbike, and drinking proper Italian coffee!
Dominic joined the Innovate team in 2015 as a Chef Manager before moving over to Operations Support.
Says Dominic, “I am a true foodie! Innovate have given me a great opportunity to spread my passion for food. Creating irresistible food”.
Varun brings to Innovate 16+ years of experience in the catering industry, along with higher studies from Loughborough University and Aarhus University. After holding various management positions at Marriott hotels in the Midlands, Varun moved to London in search of a vibrant new market & to develop his knowledge further. Varun has worked with Baxter Storey, Connect and Sodexo, predominantly in B&I sector with brand names like Herbert Smith Freehills, Coca-Cola, Bank of China and GSK.
Varun won a number of recognitions on his way to Innovate including team of the year 2014, accounts champion of the year 2015 and Manager of the year 2016.
When he is not working Varun loves spending time with his family and enjoys watching as well as playing cricket.
Ashley is one of the newest members of the team here at Innovate. He has lived in England all his life but has been fortunate enough to travel to the farthest corners of the globe. In 2017 Ashley spent 4 months traveling Asia, visiting countries such as Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia to name but a few. On his travels, Ashley learned and experienced many different cultures and ways of cooking.
Coming from a busy hospitality and catering background Ashley was a key figure in opening and establishing the award-winning Swindon based restaurant, The Weighbridge Brewhouse. Predominantly in a front of house and managerial role, Ashley was also no stranger to the kitchen, developing his passion for fine foods and demonstrating an array of cooking skills.
Having left his role at the restaurant Ashley has gone from strength to strength and has brought a range of new ideas and ways of thinking to Innovate and continues to do so through his ranging experience.
During his downtime, Ashley enjoys playing golf and rugby and is a keen follower of most sports.
With a true passion for food, David began working in kitchens from the tender age of 15.
His career kicked off with two years of college training that was followed by a stint at the Churchill Hotel in London. David’s experience and skill sets in the kitchen expanded seamlessly to include extensive banquet catering, wedding receptions, conferences and events. He successfully cooked up a storm in gastropubs as well as B&I sites before making his entrée into the education sector, with menu development and presentations becoming his newfound passion.
“Whilst never previously having worked in a school, I truly believe that school catering has come a long way in recent years and I see no reason that it shouldn’t match the quality of food offer in the best of B&I sites. Since starting at Innovate in January 2017 I’ve enjoyed travelling to the different catering units, meeting many talented, dedicated people whilst help develop the food offering, so critical to our learners’ well being”.
In his free time, his family and four children are at the centre of his life, with fishing and the occasional round of golf thrown in for good measure.
Operations Support Manager
Martina was born into a hotel and hospitality family where she gained many invaluable skills which drove her to pursue a career in catering. At 18 she went to GMIT Galway where she spent three years studying Hotel Catering Management. During her summer breaks Martina worked in prestigious 5 star hotels around Ireland. Upon finishing she gained her first managerial role overseeing three in-house restaurants at Ireland’s famous Brown Thomas department store on Grafton Street in Dublin.
At 26 Martina headed for London where she gained experience in retail catering working for Fortnum and Mason. After one year, Martina moved onto her next venture and opened her own Irish restaurant where she had many successful years. She sold this business with the intention to relax and enjoy life, but a few short months later she had the itch to come back to catering.
Martina began as a Catering Manager at Innovate in 2008, and by 2011 she moved into an Operations Support Manager role. Her current role at Innovate fulfils her passion to be involved in the delivery of good quality food, by good quality people for a good quality brand.
When she’s not working you’ll find Martina walking her two Westies on Harrow on the Hill, or spending time at her holiday home in the West of Ireland; sailing on the wild Atlantic ocean.
Operations Support Manager
Born in Torquay, John spent his summer holidays around various hotels and restaurants where he became hooked on catering with a passion. The only career he was interested in was becoming a Chef. So at 16 he enrolled in the Army Catering College and thus his catering career began.
After serving in the Army, he started to work in Residential Conference Centres and moved up the brigade to Head Chef. Over the years he has held several positions in B&I, Hospitals and even luxury dive charters in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean until arriving at Innovate in March 2017.
‘I was drawn to this role as creating dishes with fresh ingredients for the future generation seemed very rewarding. Whilst meeting new staff and students and passing on my experience gained in a wide field of catering also provides great enjoyment’.
Operations Support Manager
Liz grew up in Kent, in a family of seven, whose parents are from South Africa. Liz’s Mum was an amazing housekeeper and in the kitchen her Mum’s flair came into its own creating varied and delicious meals. Saturday mornings often included an hour’s bus ride to Lewisham market, to buy all the herbs, spices and ‘exotic’ fruit and veg then unavailable in local stores.
Liz’s fondest childhood memories are her summers spent at her Aunt’s farmhouse; chasing guinea-fowl in the garden, collecting fresh eggs from the hens, the aroma of lamb and rosemary roasting in the aga and the taste of ice-cream made from raspberries just picked! In honour of the memory every other year Liz’s Aunt hosts the family party. Folk gather over a weekend – each Auntie bringing a different curry to share, and no respectable South African family party would be complete without a braai!
It’s little wonder Liz studied Hotel Catering and Management in London. Liz went on to work briefly in management in various sectors of the industry including hotels and hospitals. Whist her own family were growing up Liz worked as a Catering Manager within both state and private schools.
‘Now that my sons are independent I am very much looking forward to progressing my career within the industry I love. I’m deeply aware of the influence from childhood that great food has had on me. This is something precious and I consider can it be passed on to children of today’.
In his free time, his family and four children are at the centre of his life, with fishing and the occasional round of golf thrown in for good measure.
Operations Support Manager
An enthusiastic and innovative professional, Gunjan is a total foodie who thrives on the vibrancy of street food. He has been in the food and hospitality industry for over 18 years, honing his skills for the likes of Costa Coffee, Baxter Storey, and Caterplus.
Born and raised in the heart of the hospitality world, only food eclipses his love for travel. Always on the cutting edge with the latest trends of the food industry, his passion also stems from his joy of helping clients realise their needs well in advance.
When not at work, Gunjan enjoys whipping up a delicious treat or finding his way from one country to the next. On weekends he spends his time taking slow drives through the countryside taking in the fresh air. Walking in the woods and climbing mountains are other pastimes he savours.
Risk, Compliance & Training Manager
Paula Lee started her career on the high street working for bakery chain Cooks the Bakers the company who originally formed Innovate in 2007.
In her role she looks after all the companies legal compliance to include food safety, health & safety and training, Paula does this in such a way that she was recognised for her hard work, dedication and the support she provides to each and every one of our units that she won the first ever specialist of the year award in the education sector 2014.
Paula is very proud of this achievement and the growth of Innovate which she has seen grow from 1 to over 85 units, Paula comments that being part of this adventure has been tough but also extremely rewarding.
Paula is based in Bournemouth and when she is not working you will likely find her on the beach.