Interview with Katie Chesney Head of Marketing EMEA of The One Group
With the move towards plant-based food is there a future for steakhouses? Our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, chatted to Katie Chesney, Head of Marketing EMEA of The One Group, who moved from restaurant management to marketing the STK Steakhouse group of restaurants in EMEA. Katie shared how she moved into the hospitality world, STK’s relationship with farmers, her favourite dishes on the menu and her views on some of the issues facing women in the food industry.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you first got into the hospitality business?
I was interested in going to hotel school as I’ve always been passionate about people and creating unique experiences that people won’t forget. To work out whether this was truly something for me I went for work experience in the In Room Dining department at Claridge’s where I served some very prestigious guests including European royalty and A list celebrities and musicians. It was then that I decided that this path was for me! I went on to study at Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, based in Marbella.
As part of the diploma we did a series of 3 internships which took place at Ritz Carlton Barcelona, Twin Palms – a Small Luxuries of The World boutique property in Phuket, Thailand and finally at Shangri-La’s Villingini Resort and Spa, Maldives. During these internships I covered Front of House, Service, Kitchen and Housekeeping. I then went on to spend 4 years in Hong Kong and Shanghai as a restaurant manager for Shangri-La.
How different are each of the STK locations within Europe?
STK London has a good range of clientele which varies over the days of the week. On Fridays and Saturdays especially we have ladies coming from far and wide across the UK to visit for a serious girls night out. We are also a really hot date spot. During the week: Wednesday, Thursday we have a good city crowd and earlier in the week we have a good focus on lunch time business.
STK Milan is extremely classy with a huge number of high fashionista guests. STK Dubai and Ibiza are very much about the party vibe and certainly the place to be seen! STK Doha opened just last year and has very much a foodie focus.
Where is most of your meat sourced?
We use local suppliers for our steak in the USA. In Europe we use Creekside Farm in Kansas. They enable us to import into Europe and we have a great relationship with them.
What sort of relationship do you have with the farmers?
We have a fantastic long distance relationship with them given that they are in America! We take great pride in our meat and order extensively to keep up with the demand that there is for STK globally. Aside from meat suppliers our Executive Chef, Vincent Menager, meets with the suppliers and distributors regularly to honour the relationships. He is very much in the loop with new products on the market and seasonal items, therefore knowing what is most worth featuring on our menu.
Can you tell about the differences between grass fed and grain fed meat?
Grain fed cows are fed on grass until they are one year old. Then they are fed on grain and corn for 6 months and are slaughtered at 18 months. Their change in diet fattens them up creating the marbling in the meat therefore creating more flavour that you would find in a grass fed cows where the meat is much leaner.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
The wagyu short rib starter that we have just introduced on our summer menu is to die for! It has a very different flavour profile and the texture of it is amazing. It’s also a fun dish to start a dining experience with. At the end of the day people are coming for a memorable experience so it’s good for them to get their hands dirty if they like!
What are the advantages of being a woman in the hospitality industry?
This is a great question! Honestly, I think hospitality is in women’s DNA. We are caring by nature and provide that sense of warmth that is essential in hospitality and can be quickly forgotten unless it is cultivated. It’s essential to be humble in the service industry and to create a memorable experience in a creative caring way – I think most women should have this down to a tee.
Personally as a woman in the industry I am keen for people to know that as well as marketing I have a keen understanding of Food & Beverage having worked in operations myself for several years. I think men have great respect for women in the industry as it is a tough one with long hours and you really do have to throw your heart and soul into it. We want people to know that can be done by women as well as men.
If you were marooned on a desert island, what one ingredient could you not live without?
I think that a wise choice would be a condiment to add a little extra flavor profile! I’d like to take a delicious range of salt or even better: salted butter which I can use to cook and flavor the veggies and the meat that I will catch with my bare hands in the wild!
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Always have a go at whatever you think you might like. A little advice that I was given growing up: “Throw your heart over the bar and jump after it!”
It’s always important to challenge yourself and work hard for what you believe in. Make sure you stand up for yourself and always try to find a mentor to give you constructive guidance. Also, take care of your health no matter what.
You can find STK Steakhouse London at 336-337 Strand London, WC2R 1HA Telephone – 020 7395 3450. The STK Global Group of restaurants are on Instagram at @eatkstk and on Twitter as @eatSTK. You can listen to our podcast with Katie Chesney very kindly put together by our friend James Haywood of OpenKitchen.