Gateshead-based GastroNorth has brought onboard Alan McKenna as development chef to head up the cooking demonstrations in its new state of the art GastroLab onsite kitchen.
GastroNorth director, Tim Whitfield, was aware of McKenna’s extensive experience, including owning McKenna’s restaurant at Northern Stage theatre in Newcastle since 1996, as well as Fell’s Kitchen in nearby Gateshead.
His reputation and background in the industry made him the distributor’s first choice, and the company asked him to conduct several demonstrations at the GastroLab when it opened in March this year.
McKenna said: “It started off as just a temporary thing, but before long I decided to come on full board, officially working 2 days a week in the GastroLab.
“I’ve really been enjoying the new challenge, which is why I decided to take on the role as development chef permanently. I find it really therapeutic working in the GastroLab and the team are happy with the work I’ve been doing, too, so that’s great.”
McKenna’s main priority in this role is to showcase the catering equipment that GastroNorth can offer its customers.
“I’ve learned all the ins and outs of each piece of equipment and created dishes that I can cook in them, producing both the recipe and cooking method of each dish,” he said.
“Potential clients are then invited in to come and see a cooking demonstration and the equipment in action, as well as do a bit of taste testing.”
The demonstration kitchen gives chefs the chance to try before they buy, and is outfitted with equipment such as a Mibrasa charcoal oven, a Unox combination oven, and an Ascenti F1 pizza oven.
McKenna has been in the culinary industry for over 30 years and he is putting that experience into training staff in equipment and even taking a side step as other chefs have a go for themselves.
He said: “The GastroLab is going extremely well and we’re really pushing it. It’s an outstanding idea; we’ve had some fantastic feedback from everyone who has visited so far.
“Trends in the catering industry are always changing and technology is always on the move and we will aim to adhere to that with our offering.”