Tell us a little bit about you and your Welsh connections

I was born into a farming family in rural Wales. Following compulsory education, I set off to pursue my ambition of becoming a professional chef. 

I worked for 14 years in the Armed Forces followed by a number of years in the Merchant Navy. Then for a period of time in Further Education.

It was an honour to return to Wales in 1998 to head up the Cambrian Training Company. That move enabled me to create one of the leading apprenticeship providers in Wales.

Profile picture of Arwyn Watkins OBE.

You are active in a number of professional groups and networks, globally. How important is that global outlook for you and your Wales-based businesses?

I am an active member of the World Association of Chef’s Societies, a global network of chefs associations founded in 1928. I am also President of the Culinary Association of Wales. In the 2018 New Year’s Honour List I was honoured to be awarded an OBE for services to Education and Training in Wales. All these roles – and the profile they bring – have helped me to promote the advancement of my profession and to give much needed recognition to those who work in the industry, nationally and internationally.

You are a Board Member at Worldchefs, the global trade association for the culinary industry and have bid to host their flagship events in Wales. What was your motivation to do that? You are a busy man and time is precious after all.

I headed up a team that attracted the 2017 World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS) European conference to the Celtic Manor Resort. Then in 2018, I received the Worldchefs President’s Medal for promoting the advancement and profile of culinary arts in Wales.

In 2019 we hosted the Worldchefs Board Meeting, prior to submitting the bid to host Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2024 and then for 2026.  

Yes, bid preparation takes time, but to be in a position to host industry colleagues – from across the World – in Wales is a huge privilege. Our food and drink industry is world-leading. The congress is a remarkable showcase for the whole supply chain and the many businesses that work with us.

World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS) European conference 2017 at the Celtic Manor Resort, South Wales

The Worldchefs Global Chefs Challenge was due to come to Wales last year but due to COVID19 restrictions, the event had to be postponed. Do you think it will return to Wales in the future?

Unfortunately, we did not secure the majority of votes needed to host Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2024. But we bid again for 2026 and won! . Wales will now host the world's biggest culinary event in 2026 with over 1,000 chefs and more than 5,000 visitors from over 100 countries, all at ICC Wales and The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

Once invited to submit a bid, were you able to call on support from partners and suppliers here in Wales?

We worked with ICC Wales and Meet In Wales to fashion our bid and they provided immediate practical support and guidance. The global conference industry is a competitive place and destinations have to work hard to attract business. Bidding is a collaborative process and we were pleased to have destination and venue partners alongside.

Bid and pitch preparation is time consuming but winning makes it worth the work? 

As a proud Welshman, who has been given the opportunity to represent my country on the world stage in my given craft, I will use all the resources available to me to create a legacy for those who follow on this path to be given the opportunity to stand on the world stage and represent their country be that as a chef, butcher or baker.

You champion Wales on the world stage. Why is that important to you personally?

By continuing to showcase Wales to the world it can not only benefit Wales but it can create the opportunity to make sure that every day is a learning day irrespective of your country of origin or background.”

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