Head chef aims to come out on top at awards bash

HAPPY Left, relationship director at Natwest Robert Jempson presents Team of the Year award highly-commended to Keith Leaning and his wife Zillah of Fruitloops.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (110877-232)
HAPPY Left, relationship director at Natwest Robert Jempson presents Team of the Year award highly-commended to Keith Leaning and his wife Zillah of Fruitloops. Picture: Allan Hutchings (110877-232)
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IT WAS pipped to the post in this year’s Business Excellence Awards.

But now the owner of Fruitloops, which runs Quartermaster’s Kitchen, at the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney, is hoping his business will come back stronger than ever at next year's eagerly anticipated contest, run by The News.

Owner and head chef Keith Leaning came home this year with a highly-commended in the Team of the Year category. But now he is gunning for glory as he puts the business forward for small business of the year.

Keith, 52, set up the Quartermaster’s Kitchen as a seven-days-a-week cafe five years ago.

Since its humble beginnings, he has built up a steady customer base and a team of four waitresses, a waiter and two chefs, including himself.

Keith said: 'When I started here, the business was nothing. It was completely dead.

‘Now I’ve got a good clientele of customers that keep coming back. I’ve got people from as far afield as Windsor and Gatwick who come down for a Sunday roast each week.’

Keith and his team cook home-made omelettes, sausages and steak and ale pies for hungry customers.

The cafe also proved a hit with music lovers with its jazz nights once a month.

Keith said: ‘I’ve got a focus here on employing young people. I want to give them a kick-start in life and give them a good opportunity to train in hospitality. Putting on the jazz night helps to promote the museum as well as ourselves.

‘It’s a message to people that we’re another venue to come to in Portsmouth. It gives people choice and in turn it helps us to grow.

‘It would mean so much to us if we won in our category, it would be recognition for all our hard work. It would be great for the profile of the museum as well.

‘I enjoying meeting people and cooking, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of presenting the food and knowing that people enjoy it and come back for more.’

Sean Spillet, 45, a chef at Quartermaster’s Kitchen, said: ‘Winning this category would mean a lot. We work hard to build up the youngsters. We teach them how to cook and give them a real taste of what it’s like to work inside a real business.’

n To enter the 2012 Business Excellence Awards complete an online form which can be found at portsmouth.co.uk. Send it back by email to emma.judd@thenews.co.uk or by post to Emma Judd, Business Editor, The News Centre, The News, Hilsea, PO2 9SX.