In Conversation with Jeff, our Executive Head Chef

Jeff the Chef

We thought we’d switch up our ‘In Conversation with’ series with a profile on Antenna’s Executive Head Chef, Jeff Cadden – find out about our multi Rosette Award-winning chef and our fantastic in-house hospitality offer.

Hi Jeff, tell us a bit about your background and career as a chef

I was born and raised in Redditch where I grew up with a passion for food. I studied catering at college where I was named Student Of The Year and Waiter Of The Year. I also had the great pleasure of being a national finalist in the 1980 Catermind competition organised by the Industrial Catering Association for catering students from around the country. Based on the long-running quiz show, Mastermind, it was hosted by the late Mastermind host himself, Magnus Magnusson.

I’ve always enjoyed growing food and I had my own allotment for many years – I grew asparagus, broccoli, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, you name it! Growing your own produce from fresh can make such a difference – my hero would probably be Chef Raymond Blanc OBE, he started out simply growing food in his garden and he really understands the seasonality of food and how to get the best flavours out of it.

I started my career on the outskirts of London at the five star-rated Great Fosters Hotel. In fact, my background’s been mainly hotels and I’ve learnt my trade in a few different places. I was Chef de Partie at Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford Upon Avon and then moved to The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh where I again was Chef de Partie.

My first Head Chef role was for the Regency Park Hotel in Thatcham, Berkshire where I gained two rosettes – a highly sought-after award in the restaurant industry. I later moved onto the Priest House in Castle Donington, where I received a third rosette. I then moved onto Donington Manor Hotel, then became the Head Chef at Le Bistrot Pierre in Derby, as well as working at their restaurant in Nottingham.

Antenna catering team
L-R Luke Clements (Chef de Partie), Nico Pietersen (Chef de Partie), Jeff Cadden (Head Chef) and Adam Law (Sous Chef)

Tell us a bit about your team

Adam Law is my Sous Chef and he’s a very creative, experienced chef with a real passion for food.

There’s also Luke Clements, he started out as a Kitchen Assistant which was his first job. He’s been with us for eight years and is now a flourishing Chef de Partie.

We also have another talented Chef de Partie, Nico Pietersen, and our latest recruit to the team, Edward Burnip, our Kitchen Assistant.

There’s also our broader Hospitality Team, who do a wonderful job serving customers in the Antenna restaurant and serving food to meeting rooms and tenants’ offices.

Our team work broadly across the Confetti Media Group network of education and commercial businesses, including Metronome, Confetti X, and Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, and so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our colleagues, Anne-Marie Hesketh (Hospitality Team Leader) and Donna Kelly (Hospitality Assistant). They round out the team, catering mainly for Confetti students and supporting large group events where it’s all hands-on deck.

What made you want to work for Antenna?

It was Antenna Business Development & Events Manager, Tonia Brundell, who initially reached out and recommended that I come and work for the business.

I joined first and foremost because the company really value you for your skills and experience. The Chief Executive, Craig Chettle MBE, is very ambitious and I find this very inspirational. I’m enjoying getting to be involved in new projects for the Group, like Antenna’s sister venue, Confetti X, and Confetti’s new London campus with Nottingham Trent University.

Secondly, with hard work comes reward and one of the things I am fortunate to be able to do is work business hours Monday to Friday. Chefs are renowned for doing unsocial working hours, it comes with the territory of working in hospitality, and so to have my weekends free and Christmas off – a rarity in the catering industry – it’s perfect for my work-life balance and the stage that I’m at right now in my career.

In the early days, I’d have to miss my friends’ weddings because I’d be doing the catering for someone else’s wedding. Working in the kitchen, you sometimes miss out and that’s why you need the passion – it’s incredible to think you are making a memorable dish that’s helped make someone’s day special. And the same applies to the food in Antenna – If you have no pride in what you do, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Working here, I get the best of both worlds and it really helps with the team’s motivation and output – that’s why the food’s so good!

Tell us a bit about Antenna’s menu, specials, and anything members should look out for

Antenna’s menu includes a host of breakfast options, small plates, and a great mix of British and European classics served throughout the day. We also change our special dishes weekly and try and go with modern ideas from around the world.

We’re thoughtful with the food preparation but it’s not overstated. There’s a lot of care and attention that goes into the food and I think that’s how the expectation gets exceeded.

Plus, a lot of consideration goes into the menu to cater for people’s different dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free dishes, and plenty of healthy options. Because the creative people that we serve, we know they have particular tastes and are conscious of clean living and sustainability.

Antenna’s ethically conscious and the products and suppliers we use reflect that – we’re proud to have the likes of Castle Rock Brewery, The Fruit Basket, and Owen Taylor & Sons Ltd on our supplier list. We’re also open to people’s suggestions on how we can develop that side of the customer service.

Speaking of customer feedback, we’ll soon be releasing a new menu – look out for some different flavours in your ciabattas, burgers and omelettes. Don’t worry, we’ll still be doing our nice breakfasts!

We refresh the menu once, sometimes twice a year and come up with new more inventive ways of pulling together a list of dishes everyone would want to eat – something for everyone. We’re conscious that our customers eat here every day, it’s about having enough variation in our menu so that people come back time after time.

It’s a bit like doing a new album – there’s a bit of parity in an artist releasing a new album and trying to top the last while keeping the fanbase, experimenting and pushing the envelope. It’s about taking creative risks and seeing if it works. The feedback you get is what gives you the buzz.

One thing we’re focusing on right now is portion control. People want a breakfast but they don’t necessarily want a huge portion and so the new menu caters to different appetites, for example, with a small and a large breakfast. We’ve also got some new healthier favourites like smashed avocado and poached egg, Greek salad, and Lebanese pitta.

Health and safety and hygiene are key when dealing with food preparation… how do you and your team maintain high standards in the kitchen?

We have cleaning schedules and regular days where we do deep cleaning. We also have a very good system in place with stock rotation, good working equipment etc. – making sure people are kept safe is paramount for my team and me.

We’re looking at creating a culture for near miss training – which is about preemptively avoiding accidents before they happen. I’ve reviewed the risk assessments in the kitchen which is as dangerous a place as a building site – from knives, to hot pans, and slippery floors etc. It’s about ensuring staff go through the procedures within the risk assessment and providing training. It’s also about not taking things for granted, we try to look at everything through a guest’s eyes, as if you’re seeing it for the first time.

The cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years, tell us about some of the cost saving measures you’ve implemented to help keep prices down for Antenna members

There’s a balancing act to be had between keeping prices affordable, whilst also managing our carbon emissions. For example, the company we use for fruit and veg, The Fruit Basket, they use local farmers, which means the food is fresher coming straight from the source and it’s not had a long journey on the back of a truck to get to us. It’s also good to be supporting local businesses and the local economy. Sometimes, it’s better to pay a premium price but with a premium quality because it’s local and more flavoursome.

For more general ingredients we have looked at new suppliers to help keep costs down – we’ve recently started working with Booker Group (who are part of Tesco) and because they have bigger buying power, their prices are more competitive, which helps us to keep our menus more affordable.

You’ve mentioned managing carbon emissions , can you tell us more about how you are helping to minimise waste, save on energy and improve Antenna’s sustainability in your area

A lot of work has gone into better waste management and inventory control. We have a more robust recycling system in place now and we’re pretty good at making sure ingredients don’t go to waste, including taking food to food banks if functions get cancelled.

Once the peak times are over, we drop everything down e.g. the number of fryers. We try to turn equipment off earlier than we used to, and as a workforce, we’ve definitely embraced a culture of turning the lights off, including the lights in the fridges overnight – you don’t realise how much power they’re using.

We now use Catering24 for all of our disposables, including recyclable and compostable bamboo cutlery and recyclable plastic beer glasses for Metronome. Catering24 maintains a quality system designed to meet the requirements of ISO 14001.

As part of efforts to reduce the use of single-use takeaway cups, we’re offering every customer a 20p discount on hot drinks every time they use their own mug.

Since our environmental management system received the IS0 14001 certification, it’s certainly changed the culture and we’re much more well versed now on best practice and motivated to keep this accreditation.

If people want to get in touch, are you happy for them to reach out?

Whilst we’re busy cooking up in the kitchen, feel free to pass on your feedback to our hospitality servers in the co-working space.

Not an Antenna member or tenant?

Antenna is Nottingham’s most established co-working and flexible office space. Whether you’re a freelancer or small creative company looking for space, Antenna offers flexible memberships from only £8.95 per month and a great city-centre location.

Find out more by heading over to our membership page.