Tasty bites from the life, times and thoughts of Kevin McWhinney
1. Was there a light bulb moment that led you to the food industry?
As a fifth-generation butcher there was never any other career path that I considered. I was always going to follow my father in the family business.
2. Who was, or is, the biggest influence in your career?
My father was the biggest influence as he taught me the necessary skills to become a Master Butcher in the first instance. He also instilled in me the maxim that I have always adhered to in business that ‘quality remains long after price is forgotten’. I have lived by this principle ever since.
3. What will fast food operators need to do to recover quickly and effectively from the Covid 19 crisis?
I don’t think that recovery will be instantaneous, but rather we will have to get accustomed to a ‘new normal’. To this end we have just produced a new ad outlining what we think the trade will have to do to recover much of the ground that has been lost since the outbreak of this pandemic. These suggestions include a rationalised menu which will enable faster operations within a shop. Safe distancing will apply within a shop and the use of PPe will be with us for some time. As we have been entrusted to supply food to a demanding public there can be no compromise on quality and, of course, I foresee many shops developing their own app which will allow ‘click and collect’ or ordering on demand for delivery, along with pre-payment which will eliminated the use of cash.
4. Biggest industry achievement/recognition to-date?
My father died just over 20 years ago a short time after he had bought a factory unit which was basically a shell. I made the decision to turn this into a sausage factory as production in the family shop had already been compromised due to lack of space. Over the years that decision has been justified as the business has expanded ever since.
5. What do you do the wind down outside of work?
I play snooker and have played competitively in local leagues. I attend the gym as I feel physical well-being is as important as mental well-being. I also play classical guitar and am an avid film buff.
6. What has been to biggest change for your job over the last 5 years?
Over the last 5-10 years the advances in technology, particularly the mobile phone has resulted in the biggest change. I am able to carry my office in my pocket and this has caused my wife to comment that even when I am on holiday I am never away from work as I can watch what is happening in the factory on my mobile though the various cameras in the factory.
7. Have you got a favourite food memory from your childhood?
As a child there was always a large pan with cuts of meat that were brought home each evening from the shop by my father. These included ends of chops or products which were slightly misshapen and could not be sold to the public. I always remember being able to ‘dip into’ the pan and get something delicious.
8. What do you regard as being the most important factors for success in your role?
The single most important factor for success in my role is my refusal to compromise. I have always prided myself on the quality of the products that we at McWhinneys produce and will not compromise on the quality ingredients that we use, even if I might make more profit. The recipe we use is the original recipe dating back to 1898 and the only changes we have made were those required by legislation. I see no point in saying something is ‘new and improved’ when we already produce the highest quality products.
9. How would you describe your desk?
My desk is ultra-tidy. I am not a fan of paperwork and therefore keep my desk free of anything but the current projects. My wife tells me that I have OCD and I would probably have to agree with her as my excessive behaviour is a feature of my home life as well as my business life.
10. If you were someone else, what/who would you have liked to be?
I have thought about this and truthfully, there is no-one else that I have ever wanted to be. I am very content to just be me.
11. Is there a dish that you enthusiastically share the recipe for?
LOL. I do not cook, as my wife Elaine is an excellent cook, so I am happy to leave her to look after the kitchen. I have to admit that I am a true example of a 1980’s husband.
12. What is the biggest challenge to face from Brexit for McWhinneys?
At this time this is impossible to answer as negotiations between our own government and Europe have not been concluded. Until these are finalised, I prefer to deal with facts rather than speculation.
13. What is your favourite music to eat to?
I am a fan of all genres of music, but I am a rocker at heart. I enjoy both soft and hard lock and particularly like the music of AC/DC.
14. What makes a good sausage?
To make a good sausage you have to use good ingredients. At McWhinneys we always use proper pork and not a substitute such ad MRM, DSM or drinde. I will never allow any of these ingredients into my factory and will not allow compromise on this. You only have to bite into one of our sausages to enjoy the taste of real meat.
15. Who is your favourite celebrity chef? Why?
Gordon Ramsey. He is blunt and to the point and leaves no-one in any doubt about where he stands.
16. Batman, Superman, Captain Quality or Wonder Woman?
Captain Quality without any doubt. Like our sausages, he has no equal.
17. What is your favourite movie or food programme?
My all-time favourite film has to be The Shawshank Redemption. I do not have a favourite food programme.
18. What do you always carry with you?
Elaine laughs at me as I have a ritual which I always go through when I am leaving home or somewhere, I have been. I always pat myself down to make sure I have my mobile phone, my watch and my glasses. When on holiday, I am like Royalty as Elaine always takes care of the money, credit card etc.
19. What do you regard as your biggest threat, opportunity or challenge for the next 12 months?
The challenge we have faced in recent times has been Covid-19 and I fear it will be with us for some time yet. Our sector will face challenges when dealing with the ‘new normal’ as I have mentioned in point 3 earlier.
20. What do you predict to be the next big Food trend/fad and where from?
I think the new trend will be an increase in home eating as people come to terms with the aftermath of Covid-19. Many restaurants have prepared delicious meals for eating at home and I think this trend will continue, at least until we get a vaccine for Covid-19.
21. Tea or coffee?
I used to drink coffee, but since the beginning of last year have been diagnosed as a coeliac. This has changed my tastes and I am now a confirmed tea drinker – as long as the tea is strong enough to stand a spoon upright.
22. What is your favourite car?
I am a Ferrari nut and always have been. I promised myself that I would have a Ferrari by the time I was thirty and achieved this ambition for a short time. I had to sell the Ferrari as I needed to buy a new piece of equipment for the factory but have been able to drive a Ferrari in recent years.
23. What is your favourite fish and how do you like it cooked?
I do not have a favourite fish, but I have to admit that I like eating the batter off the fish and Elaine eats the fish.
24. Coke or Pepsi?
Without a doubt it has to be Coke. When you hear someone ordering Coke in a pub or restaurant when only Pepsi is available, the response is usually accompanied with a statement along the lines of “sorry, we only have Pepsi”. In the same way when I order ketchup, I expect Heinz, or when ordering brown sauce, I expect HP. I expect the best and do not like to compromise!!!
25. What is your favourite Fast Food branding?
I don’t really have a favourite, but I believe that McDonald’s golden arches are the most iconic.
26. Where is your favourite worldwide holiday destination?
Anywhere in the world on a cruise ship as long as there is heat and sunshine.
27. Dogs or Cats?
Cats every time.