A huge congratulations to Ian Armstrong who is now heading up Innovation and Culinary across Solina UK and Essential Cuisine. Find out about his experience, job role and key objectives in the interview below.
I have 9 years experience working as an Innovation Development Chef and I am lucky to have worked with brilliant people from around the world who have inspired me, motivated me and shown me different ways of looking at food. With innovation, collaboration is most often where the ‘good stuff’ comes from, and that goes across many disciplines. I am looking forward to harnessing the group talents and creating a joined up approach to innovation.
Since joining the business last summer, I have enjoyed the family feel that we have within the business. Since day one I have felt like a member of the wider Solina family and have always been supported in my role. When I first joined the company, I lived away from home in Edinburgh for the first 5 months and people were really accommodating and friendly, offering advice on where to eat in the evenings and making sure I was okay. I also believe we have an excellent culture where people are allowed to bring their ideas and experiences to the table.
My role is really different from day to day however on a typical day I would check in with the kitchen teams at Essential Cuisine and Solina UK and ask how they are progressing with their workloads and if we have any bottle necks coming up. I then catch up on emails and speak with our innovations team to ask how we are progressing with our innovation projects. After that I will be in the kitchen working on culinary projects that I have to deliver myself, or I may be researching trends or planning food trawls to share with our customers.
We have four key themes that we will be focusing in on from an innovation point of view over the coming year.
I am currently embarking on a redevelopment project for our fresh stock ranges. I am also working with the wider innovation and culinary teams to organise our NPD into a 3 year innovation pipeline.
Due to the economic factors COVID has caused, I see a real resurgence in small independent restaurants over the next five years as retail spaces stand empty and rents are lowered to get businesses in. I see this leading to an explosion in 2022 and 23, with some real innovation coming through as these businesses work with the current skills shortage and small dining spaces. This will hopefully lead to exciting fusions of cuisines and new techniques being developed. The continuation of vegan protein development and the further honing of technology to replicate meat will be very exciting to see develop over the coming years.
In my view the two are very closely linked. Our innovation pipeline will support all of our customers by taking those key trends that we identify and then develop into whilst also being mindful of creating solutions which can be adapted correctly for the end user.
Yes, I have a very cute terrier called Busby and two fish, Finn and Lilly.