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!
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.
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.
Regional Business Manager
Katie was born in the UK but grew up in sunny South Florida and was drawn into the hospitality world at age 15. Her first management position was in the Clevelander Bar & Restaurant located on Miami’s world famous South Beach. After a few years, she took her management experience across the Atlantic to the hectic and hedonistic island of Ibiza where she ran a busy restaurant, bar & nightclub in San Antonio.
Katie returned to her roots ten years ago and has brought her passion and enthusiasm for the hospitality industry to the people of the UK. Her recent operational roles in various hotels and premium dining establishments make her a perfect match in helping to realize Innovates vision for the future.
In her spare time Katie enjoys cycling, watching Football and Formula One, and after 20 years in catering & hospitality she is finally learning how to cook!
Regional Business Manager
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 & Edinburgh and even serving some royal family members naming no names (but think there’s a steak name 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.
Operations Support Manager
Eileen Carter started her catering career in 1987 when she and her husband bought a hotel in Bournemouth; this was quickly followed by a village pub and restaurant in the Hampshire countryside. Both businesses were extremely successful, with sales increasing substantially. However after 7 years they sold the businesses and Eileen moved into the world of school catering.
Eileen’s first position was as Assistant Manager in a large unit in a Watford school. From that time she has been involved in all aspects of running units, preparing menus, cooking, training staff as well as client liaison.
In 1997 she transferred to Bournemouth University and after only six months she took on the role of Relief Manager across the South. In 2009 the contract was taken over and it was then that she started with Innovate Services. After a short time with Innovate, Eileen was promoted to Operations Support Manager.
Living in Bournemouth you will mostly find Eileen in her garden or walking the beach at weekends. She has five granddaughters and loves to spend time with them whenever possible.
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
Cliff has always liked cooking, and after leaving school went on to catering college. Upon leaving College he joined the Army catering corp and it is here that he developed his trade as a chef and the passion he has for food. After leaving the Army Cliff worked for a number of organisations mainly for B&I Contracts, working as a Head Chef, Catering Manager and Area Manager.
He joined innovate in November 2013 as a Unit Manager, before moving on to the Operation Support Team.
‘I enjoy the role that I do. Getting to go to the different units, meeting the pupils and both Innovate and the schools staff.’ – Cliff Roberts
Outside work Cliff’s main passion is football, which he used to play at a decent level.
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.
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.