Ollie Keenan, a chef for Sodexo’s Corporate Services business in the North East, scooped bronze in the 2020 Sodexo Chef of the Year competition in March. It was his first time competing in the live cook-off, which took place at the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering (HRC) event at the ExCel, London. 

Ollie KeenanOllie, representing Ireland and Northern Ireland, impressed the judges with his take on a menu using ‘Future 50’ ingredients. 75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species. ‘Future 50’ are plant-based foods identified by Sodexo’s partners, WWF and Knorr, that need to be incorporated more into daily food consumption to boost the nutritional value of meals while reducing the environmental impact of our food supply.

The competitors had 90 minutes to produce three dishes as part of a specific criteria. Ollie was awarded a Bronze Medal overall for his starter of wild mushroom and wild rice ravioli, broad bean salad with mushroom consommé, followed by roast poussin, viscera croquette, pea purée, kale, bacon lardon and chicken jus and a dessert of poached pear, pear foam, pear mousse, chocolate and ginger fondant.

Sodexo has already successfully adopted recipes across its business in the UK and Ireland incorporating a selection of the 'Future 50' ingredients, aligning with a growing consumer demand for healthier meal options that taste great and are responsibly sourced.

Ollie Keenan, who comes from Ballinode in Co. Monaghan, said: “There was a lot of hard work by a lot of people to ensure that I had all the right equipment and ingredients, so I am very grateful to them for their help and support. It was my first time to compete at an event of this size and calibre, so it was a little stressful at first, but once it began, I quickly found my rhythm. The general concept of my menu was the same as that for my all-Ireland win, but there was a lot of rethinking and refinement to bring it up to the next level.

Ollie continued: “It was also the first time for Keith Daly, my commis chef, who gave me terrific support, so I was able to relax, knowing he was in my corner."

Even though you always want to do better, it’s still a great feeling to bring home a medal from a high-level culinary competition like this.

Ollie Keenan 2Ollie was one of nine chefs from Sodexo UK & Ireland who competed against each other in the live cook off, which was won by Ronnel Nulud, hospitality head chef for Sodexo’s Energy & Resources. Ollie and the other finalists all received a personalised chef jacket, a year’s subscription to the Craft Guild of Chefs and an exclusive invitation to a bespoke innovation training workshop run by competition sponsors Rational and Vegetarian Express. 

Julianne Forrestal, craft development chef for Sodexo Ireland said:

Ollie’s dedication to Sodexo’s sustainable future has been demonstrated clearly through his food, which was delivered to a high standard. All the chefs this year rose to the challenge of presenting plant-forward dishes, which is a testament to their determination, training and the support of their Sodexo colleagues.

Sodexo, part of the global Sodexo Group the world’s largest services company, delivers services that improve the quality of life to clients in business and industry, education, financial, pharma and healthcare in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Those services range from catering, cleaning, security, reception to asset management, laboratory and grounds maintenance services, enabling clients to focus on their core business. It also includes homecare provision following the acquisition of Comfort Keepers Ireland in 2015. Sodexo employs approximately 3,700 people in over 230 locations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Sodexo Chef of the Year 2020 finalists:

  • Ronnel Nulud, Hospitality Head Chef, Energy & Resources – gold best in class
  • Andy Clarkson, Catering Manager, Aliwall Barracks, Government & Agencies – gold runner-up
  • William Tinkler, Sous Chef, Eton College, Schools & Universities – silver second runner-up
  • Alex Fellows, Head Chef, Woldingham School, Schools & Universities – silver and hygiene award
  • David Humphreys, Development Chef, Tillery Valley Foods, Healthcare – silver
  • Peter Ciszak, Head Chef, Keepers Restaurant at the Royal Academy of Arts, Sports & Leisure – bronze
  • Oliver Keenan, Senior Relief Chef, Paypal, Dublin & Dundalk, Corporate Services – bronze
  • Adam Collison, Head Chef, APL Alderley Park Ltd, Corporate Services – bronze
  • Bruce Morrison, Chef Manager, Voyageur Spirit, Energy & Resources - bronze

Sodexo Chef of the Year 2020 was judged by:

  • Steve Scuffell, Chair of Judges 
  • Paul Mannering, Chef Director, HIT Training
  • Alex Hall, Culinary Director, Unilever Food Solutions
  • Nick Sinclair, Chef Director JSW Recruitment
  • Alyn Williams, Chef and Restaurateur
  • Adam Smith, Executive Chef, Coworth Park
  • Andrew Clarke, Co-founder of Pilot Light 
  • Derry Clarke, Chef Patron, L’Ecrivan restaurant 
  • Andy Voice, Development Chef, Sodexo UK & Ireland 
  • Yolande Stanley, Consultant Pastry Chef 
  • Paul Jervis, Chef Lecturer, Westminster Kingsway College 

Sodexo Chef of the Year 2020 was kindly supported by:

  • Unilever Food Solutions
  • Lockhart Catering Equipment
  • WWF
  • Rational
  • Vegetarian Express
  • The Craft Guild of Chefs



From left to right: Ollie is pictured with David Mulcahy, Food Development & Innovation Director, Sodexo UK and Ireland, Keith Daly, Ollie’s commis chef and Keith Munkley, vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs.

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