Culinary Director - Levy Restaurants UK, Arena

  • Andy Wardle

    In 1999, I was appointed Head Chef at Preston Football Club for Heathcotes Outside, a catering company that Paul Heathcote & a team of us started together. Paul was actually the first chef outside of London to receive a Michelin star, and, like me, he had a great affection for locally-sourced ingredients. Our mission was to bring Michelin restaurant standards to catering events & functions. I joined Levy Restaurants UK as Executive Chef in 2015. My role involves creating signature dishes for the cafes, restaurants & events across Levy’s nationwide portfolio, which includes ExCeL London, Olympia, EICC & SECC, to name a few. My role requires me to always stay on top of trends in food preparation, kitchen equipment & ingredient use. Last year, I supported the Year of Scotland Food and Drink, working with local suppliers & weaving seasonal produce into menus.

    How did you get into cooking?

    Growing up, my family was really passionate about food. My mum & grandma cooked for the whole family. My favourites? Fish pie, soups, amazing curry, stew & dumplings with beetroot… just good British home-cooking! When I was 19, I moved to Sark in the Channel Islands to work at a hotel. I learned so much about food during my 3 years there, & gained a real appreciation & passion for locally-sourced ingredients. Everything we cooked with at the hotel was local – the beef, the goats, the lamb... We even grew our own vegetables in the hotel’s vegetable garden!

  • What do you enjoy most about working for Compass?

    The diversity that Compass has to offer! If you want a career in the culinary industry, there’s nothing Compass doesn’t offer in terms of opportunities - whether it’s looking after concessions at a football stadium or fine-dining at a race course, we’ve got something for everyone. Compass is a company that has designed processes specifically to help advance careers. We’re a well-structured business, and we have experts in every area. People often use the words “contract catering” and “corporate,” but we’re actually a very bespoke company! I really enjoy the “white label” aspect of the company – a lot of our bids and offers are entirely tailored to the client’s needs and requests. I’ve also met some fantastic people here, which I think goes without saying.

  • I’m most proud of how far I’ve come as a chef. 30 years ago, if someone had told me - a 16 year old commis chef peeling potatoes - that I’d be opening Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, working at the BRITs and PGA Golf, and flying to Abu Dhabi to support the F1 Grand Prix… I wouldn’t have believed them!

  • Every day is different. You’re always thinking about what to do next – it’s very forward thinking. It’s great never having to be in the same place, day in and day out. It’s also a very sociable job. The people we meet, the places we cook at… it’s all so diverse! Yesterday I was at the Natural History Museum in London, and today I’m at Aintree Racecourse!

  • I love cooking and eating fresh fish! Early in my career, when I was training on the South Coast, I worked crab and lobster fishing boat 4 mornings a week. Kale is also a favourite ingredient. I look after a professional sports star's diet, and often make kale crisps for him! I love putting kale in casseroles and pies – I recently created a kale, butternut squash and garstang blue cheese tart that is being implemented as a signature dish into a Levy contract.

  • I love cooking pad Thai, pad krapao, and thai fish cakes. I love authentic Thai food – it’s such a vibrant, healthy cuisine! I really enjoy working with fresh ginger and spices.