For this edition of Chef’s Corner, we talked to Mark Reynolds, executive head chef of hospitality at London’s Wembley Stadium, where Delaware North operates food and beverage services.

Wembley Stadium, the seventh largest stadium in the world, features 161 corporate suites, 74 fresh-food concession kiosks and eight restaurants, including The Bobby Moore Suite – Europe’s largest fine-dining restaurant, serving 1,900 a la carte covers on an event day.

At a major event, Reynolds oversees 10,500 hospitality covers served from 16 main kitchens and 80 satellite kitchens – with a brigade of 220 chefs. Annually, he has responsibility for a £3.7m (or more than $5.7 million U.S.) food and beverage budget.

Wembley Stadium also has a thriving non-event-day business, with a diverse range of meetings, events, conferences and dinners – including hosting several large, blue-chip companies such as Marks & Spencer, Tesco’s, KFC and the Football Association.

How many years have you worked here?
Ten years with Delaware North.

How did you get started in the food industry?
My dad bought a pub with rooms upstairs. I started doing breakfasts at 15. I joined the army as a fireman, but turns out they don’t have firemen so I joined as a chef. This is when I realized I was a chef first and a soldier second. I returned and went on to complete an apprenticeship at London Park Lane Hotel, which funny enough, is where I was presented with my Craft Guild of Chefs award a couple weeks ago – a fitting tribute back to where it all started for me.

Words that describe you
Passionate, driven, loyal and an achiever.

Words that describe your food
Innovative, flavorsome, fun food with a nod to childhood memories.

Your favorite moment at Delaware North
Tough to pick just one, so I’ll go with two that spring to mind. Cooking for the Craft Guild of Chefs at Wembley Stadium during the 2012 Olympic Games was a momentous occasion for me – not the least of which because of the audience that I was cooking for (cream of the U.K. cheffing talent) but also the amazing feedback our team received after the event; I still have the letter on my pin board! My other headline event would have to include the 2015 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. As this is the pinnacle of the client (FA) event calendar for the year, there is always added pressure to create a showstopper experience for our guests. We have made some steep changes this year to our operations at Wembley Stadium and the client told us it was the best FA Cup Final they have had since opening. This was great to hear and proves that we are continuing to push the boundaries – surprising our clients with innovative and on-trend culinary experiences.

Craziest thing you've ever eaten
I may upset a few people with these two, but here goes. Swans feet at the Dancing Swan, aptly named as the swans are presented on a heated glass dome – and yes, alive and dancing. The other is monkey brains in Thailand; I will spare you the details here for those Jungle Book fans amongst you.

Your favorite food
You can’t beat a good sausage, mash and beans or suet steak and kidney pudding with mash and beans. I Guess I love British classics, with mash and beans.

Your least favorite food item or beverage
Ketchup – aka Satan’s sauce. And HP Brown sauce, too. What’s that all about? Bleurgh!

The hardest cooking lesson you ever received
Respect. It is important to treat everyone with respect as you progress up the career ladder as once you reach a head chef position, you’re going to need your team behind you. This is never going to be a one-man show.

Heroes (cooking or otherwise)
I am lucky enough to still work with my hero, Paul Gayler. Paul is the only chef to have opened and closed a London hotel (The Lanesborough – a 21-year period). All through Paul’s career he has continued to innovate and push boundaries, with his 25th book recently published. Paul supports me on a match day in the Bobby Moore restaurant, and he continues to amaze me with his attitude to work and impressive skillset. Paul’s “chef talk” is contagious to everyone he meets – a real inspiration to me and my team.
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