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Women in Food series: Karlene Gaskell, Head Chef, Food Development

Case Study

Karlene began her journey to becoming a chef after leaving school at the age of 16 and starting an apprenticeship. During her culinary education Karlene worked at a range of hotels and restaurant, which provided her with a chance to experience different types of kitchens and environments.

At the age of 18 Karlene discovered contract catering, finishing her apprenticeship at Aramark. The couple of years she spent in the field of contract catering convinced her of its multiple benefits and in 2000 Karlene joined Compass, working at BA Waterside under now Executive Chef Nick Vadis.

While transforming the pre-flight food offer at BA, Karlene and Nick started taking part in the culinary competition circuit, winning medals at Hotelympia, eventually supporting the English team at the Culinary Olympics.

At the age of 25 Karlene decided to take a break from catering and travelled Australasia with her husband as freelance chefs. The experience was invaluable and Karlene took plenty of inspiration and ideas from her time in the different kitchens.

On returning to Britain in 2008, Karlene entered back in to the business, taking up the role of Development Chef, a role she still holds. At first she was the only chef with such a role, however she now has a five-strong team around her to help create new recipes and concepts for all and every sector.

While creating and developing new dishes is Karlene’s prime motivation, she also has a passion for bringing through the younger generation of chefs. The Innovation Centre is a fantastic place for future chefs to progress and Karlene revels in the opportunity to help them develop their skills before heading out into the business.

On Women in Food event:

“The Women in Food project is a brilliant idea and an excellent stance to make as a company. I remember when I first entered into the kitchen and it was often tough working in an extremely male-dominated environment, so for the company to publically announce a move to have female chefs make up 50% of the workforce is fantastic. With female chefs being such an integral part of not just the business, but also the industry, I am very pleased to see Compass investing heavily in its female staff.”

On Compass Group:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Compass and I can only see that continuing. The brilliant aspect of the company is its passion for training and progressing its staff, allowing everyone who enters the business to develop their skills to the highest level. This can be seen through the pledge to create 1500 apprenticeships by 2020 as well as the Women in Food announcement.  

Karlene Gaskell