Chefs at the Table:
Building a global chef community through knowledge sharing and combi oven cooking
Recently HOUNÖ hosted an inspiration event for chefs called Chefs at the table. Eight chefs from around the world joined our own three chefs for a week of learning and knowledge sharing at HOUNÖ’s headquarters in Randers, Denmark.
“I dreamt of hosting an inspiration and networking event for chefs for years. It is finally a reality!” HOUNÖ’s Product Manager Rasmus V. Larsen says proudly and with a smile. And there is a reason to smile. Not only did the event become a reality, it also went better than we dared to dream. Chefs at the table was a great success, where the participants gained a lot of new knowledge and created a network with other chefs from all over the world.
The last day of Chefs at the table is a typical spring day in Denmark with a bit of rain and a bit of sun. But our chef guests pay little attention to the constantly changing weather, as they are preoccupied at Moment Studio, a photography studio specializing in food photography. We are here to shoot pictures of the chefs’ homework for Chefs at the table: a traditional dish from their home country prepared in a HOUNÖ combi oven.
In the breaks between food styling, posing for photos, cracking jokes and laughing together, we took the time to chat with the participants about their experiences during the week. What became clear was that even though the event was only a week long, it has made a lasting impact on the chefs.
Chef-to-chef learning makes all the difference
“It’s been brilliant. I’ve met some really good people and learnt a lot. It’s great,” Rob Fairhurst says. He works for Middleby UK as a Demonstration Chef and National Accounts Manager. Chefs at the table marks Rob Fairhurst’s second visit to HOUNÖs headquarters in Denmark. He visited last year with a big group of people from the UK. However, he much prefers his experience at Chefs at the table; “I like that it’s just chefs and it is very hands-on. You learn more this way.”
David Ickx from Levens in Belgium agrees: “It was a really nice experience. I learnt a lot, but not in an old-fashioned teaching way. It was very hands-on. It is really chef-to-chef!” David’s colleague Stephan Nijst from Levens in The Netherlands states that the event has felt familiar and relaxing because it’s all chefs: “We have a common connection and that is loving food!”
“The event has given me a feeling of ‘I’m not alone’; it’s been refreshing thinking with lots of info, very hands-on. It’s given me new tools in my toolbox, so to speak,” says Vesa Saaristo. He works for Dieta, where he is a corporate executive chef. “I’m working mostly alone, so knowledge sharing, talking and learning with others is helpful. For example, HOUNÖ’s chefs Edwin, Rasmus and Martin all bring a different angle to the oven features,” he says. He appreciated the different approaches to the topics covered during the event.
The agenda for the week has covered a lot of information regarding combi ovens. “It has been an overwhelming experience – with an overwhelming amount of information. It’s been a bit geeky… but that’s okay!” Chef Aldoz Sintos from Middleby Philippines says with a laugh.
This is Aldoz’ first trip to Europe and although he did not know any of the people attending Chefs at the table, he decided to go as it was an opportunity to get more information. “It could help me get to know the product better,” he says. “I’ve definitely learnt something new about the ovens!”
A masterclass on the Let’s Cook Cloud Solution and combi ovens
“The most impressive part of the whole event has been being introduced to the Let’s Cook Cloud Solution!” Chef Dheeraj Khumar from Middleby India says. In fact, Let’s Cook Cloud Solution is mentioned by all the chefs when asked what they found most memorable about the week’s teachings.
His colleague Corporate Chef Adil Khan, from Middleby Celfrost Innovations India, elaborates: “I think we have a very strong feature in the HOUNÖ Let’s Cook cloud solution which is not matched by any other manufacturer in the industry. A lot of the competitors talk about a cloud solution, but they don’t deliver. Let’s Cook is very specific and tangible. It is a propeller for business!”
Rob Fairhurst chimes in and says that after attending Chefs
at the table, he feels more confident with using the Let’s Cook Cloud Solution. David Ickx sums it up: “The event was like a masterclass on how to work with the cloud solution.” He also declares that the event has given him tools to put the cloud solution forward in his market.
The chefs all say that they feel better equipped to promote ovens after attending the event. They have learned a lot; they have become more familiar with the ovens, which has given them more insights as well as more confidence in their own ability to sell ovens. David Ickx says his participation in the event makes it possible for him to talk more convincingly and with emotion about combi ovens, as he has seen the company, factory and philosophy behind the product.
“As one of the other chefs said: seeing is believing!” Adil Khan adds with a smile. He continues: “With more knowledge comes more conviction.” Stephan Nijst agrees: “When you have knowledge, you have a story to tell.” Telling a convincing, truthful story, which resonates with customers is a very important part of selling ovens. As Vesa Saaristo says: “Chefs at the table will help me sell more ovens and better support exciting customers, as I have more knowledge now. It lets me appear more knowledgeable.”
Empowering knowledge sharing: “Sales guys can be taught by chefs now!”
Chefs at the table has also empowered the chefs to share their newfound knowledge with their colleagues, once they are back at work. This highlights how the knowledge sharing of Chefs at the table is not just for the benefit of the attending chefs, but for their colleagues as well.
“Together with Stephan I’ll do a sales training for our colleagues based on what we’ve learned at Chefs at the table,” David Ickx says. His colleague Stephan Nijst adds: “This event develops people. Sales guys can be taught by chefs now!”
The last part is said with a smile and laugh. However; the other attendees of Chefs at the table agree with Stephan. The chefs have gained so much new knowledge about combi ovens and the cloud solution, that it would be a waste not to share this with other people in their organizations.
“The event has helped me get my point across regarding the ovens. You take what you learned here and pass it on to colleagues and customers,” Rob Fairhurst says. He wants to use what he learned during Chefs at the table when he does demonstrations in the HOUNÖ Showroom at Middleby UK.
Vesa Saaristo chimes in and passionately says: “At the next sales meeting I will tell about my experiences at Chefs at the table; we have to tell the right stories and focus on the benefit for the customers. What can we do? How can we resolve customer problems?”
Building a community through food
These chefs would probably never have met otherwise, even though they work in the same industry. But over the course of a week, they have formed a community. The networking aspect of Chefs at the table is something HOUNÖ values highly; we want to give chefs from all over the world the opportunity to meet and share knowledge with each other.
“The best part was cross-learning from the chefs from different parts of the world,” Adil Khan from India says. Finnish Vesa Saaristo agrees and elaborates: “It is important to be a friend. I only knew Rasmus and Edwin from HOUNÖ coming here and now I have a network for 10 chefs from around the world.”
To develop the community and encourage friendships between the chefs, the agenda for Chefs at the table consisted of nightly dinners, where the participants dined together. On the first night at HOUNÖ they were introduced to HOUNÖ’s pop-up restaurant concept, which is used at exhibitions. HOUNÖ provides an authentic restaurant experience to customers with several courses, which are all prepared using combi ovens.
Stephan Nijst says this inspired him to try to do the restaurant concept the next time he participates in an exhibition with Levens. “When you hear these chefs say: ‘I prepare everything in the oven’ that’s the goal! I want to push the oven to do more!” he says with passion. And that is what Chefs at the table is all about; to inspire chefs and open their eyes to the infinite possibilities of combi oven food preparation.
The chefs also cooked for and with each other during the week. HOUNÖ gave them homework in the sense that they had to prepare a recipe from their country, which is prominent to their food culture and prepared in a combi oven. This gave the participants a better understanding of each other’s cultures as well as an improved understanding of the ovens and cooking functions. It also gave the chefs an opportunity to get some hands-on experience with the #foodweshare function in Let’s Cook – they all uploaded their recipes to the cloud, so they are available to other users.
The knowledge sharing and networking between the chefs does not end when they go home after Chefs at the table. The chefs liked that they had the opportunity to share knowledge with each other and HOUNÖ so much that they have created a What’s App group together. Here they will be able to share knowledge and help each other after Chefs at the table.
Aldoz Sintos mentions the What’s App group that the attendees of Chefs at the table have created: “We ask questions, find inspiration and share knowledge in that group, which will help us in the future.” Vesa Saaristo adds: “You suddenly have a support network of 10 chefs from around the world. That’s an important takeaway from this event.”
Chefs at the table in the future
HOUNÖ hopes to repeat the success of Chefs at the table in the future, which the participants fully support.
“Keep doing events! It’s been planned really well. There are a lot of things for us to take home from it,” Dheeraj Khumar says. His colleague from Middleby India Adil Khan agrees and says with a smile: “It has been a very well thought of and very well-planned event. It was very good. Worth the long trip!”
“I would recommend attending Chefs at the table!” Aldoz Sintos says and all the other chefs agree with him. “Group trainings are better – better learning, better atmosphere. I would recommend. I would also recommend that instead of doing traditional factory visits we should have events like this,” Adil Khan says.
Many of the chefs would also like to participate in Chefs at the table again. “I would like to attend again. I would also recommend for my colleagues to attend. It’s been amazing!” Vesa Saaristo says joyfully. David Ickx would also like to attend again if possible and adds: “Thank you for putting together this event for us.”
This is everything HOUNÖ hoped for with the event. When Product Manager Rasmus V. Larsen dreamt up the concept for Chefs at the table, he hoped to facilitate unique knowledge sharing and networking opportunities for chefs who work with combi ovens.
Eight chefs from all over the world made the journey to HOUNÖ’s headquarters in Denmark for a week of learning and knowledge sharing about combi ovens. They all found the event to be inspiring. They leave Denmark with new knowledge, new experiences, new friendships and a lot of motivation.
Chefs at the table will return in the future. If you are a chef working with combi ovens, who would like to attend future HOUNÖ networking and inspiration events, you are more than welcome to contact HOUNÖ
Published by HOUNÖ
Text: Cæcilie Brunsvig
Photography: Rasmus Bluhme, Moment Studio
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