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Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Jeremy Hammond-Chambers is owner and CEO at Innovative Dining, located in Sarasota and servicing the Greater Tampa Area. Growing up in Scotland and later Charleston, SC, he became accustomed to both European cultures and that of the West.

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Before moving to London and embarking on a journey that has led this veteran chef into over 20 years of service to the culinary field, Jeremy went on to earn an environmental science degree at Newcastle University in North England. He then graduated with honors at the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in London, earning his Grande Diplome in Culinary. Jeremy says the climate brought him to the Tampa Bay area, as it rains “300 days a year” in the United Kingdom. “I just got back from a business trip in New York, and it was 38 degrees. When I arrived in Tampa it was 80,” he exclaims.

Providing service to high-end clientele, he has been listed on the Best Chefs America database, otherwise known as the “Ultimate Guide to Chefs.”

What was that spark that let you know being a chef is what you were meant to do?

From a very early age, I would spend time cooking with my family. We would vacation on the west coast of Scotland, as well as the coast of South Carolina. Two totally different climates, but they have some of the best seafood stocks in the world. We would have big cookouts and from an early age, I always rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in.

What makes you different from other businesses? Do you cater to a specific customer base?

The quality of our product and where we source it from. We are not a hot box catering company that buys our food pre-made. You won’t find another catering business on the Gulf Coast that takes the time to research ingredients and has a network of the best purveyors in the country, like we do. Our price points direct our customer base.

We have such a wide range of high-end clients—that are used to eating at the best restaurants all over the world—we don’t limit our menu choices. We are a boutique catering company that specializes in the custom design of each of our events, whether it’s an Indian Wedding or Southern Style Cocktail Brunch. We’ll do it all!

What makes you and your business “innovative?” How do you continuously evolve?

The products we use and how we use them. If we’re asked to make Thai Curries, they are made from scratch. We source fish from as far away as Tasmania, Grade 5 Wagyu beef from Japan. Our attitude to our bar is a serious as the food we make. Our Beverage Director, Kate McCashland, has a craft cocktail program in the catering space that is second to none.

What are your thoughts on community support, whether supporting small businesses or supporting the people within it?

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It’s extremely important for us to support the community. We do it through donating to a number of targeted nonprofits. Last year our donations to local charities, through our services, were valued at around $75K. We concentrate on social issues like education and need for families to put food on their tables — at home and school. We support small businesses when we can, as we would consider ourselves one. That, however, does not stop us from sourcing the best possible ingredients we can find across the states and globally.

What other businesses are you involved in? What challenges do you face as a small business owner?

I have started three separate businesses: A high-end catering service, Innovative Dining that has clients from Tampa to Miami and as far north as Connecticut. The executive Chef Danny Gibbons is my partner and runs the day-to-day operations. He’s probably one of the most talented young chefs and business minds you’ll meet. He’s only 27!

At the beginning of 2014 I started an event planning business, LH Wedding and Special Events, with a fantastic lady called Lucy Halasz. She has a wealth of experience in event planning, not only here in the US, but also in the Far East and Europe. The two businesses are separate, although we naturally do a lot of business together.

The third business is in restaurant consulting, which is really my background. I have been lucky enough during my 20 years as a chef to work for some of the World’s best chefs, but not only that, they have all been very successful in business, such as the likes of Daniel Buloud and Mario Batali.

The challenges you face in any business are the same. Number one on the list is finding good people and making sure that when you do, you don’t find yourself hiring copycats of yourself. Diversity in the work place is what makes it tick. Florida, and especially the Bay area, is a great place to start a business. If you are prepared to work hard and you know your space you’ll do well.

What is your ultimate career goal?

Nurture young talent, start businesses and let them run them. The USA is a fantastic country for this and like nowhere else in the world. I have lived in Europe, Asia and North America. Here in the U.S., it’s the best!

Finally, what advice would you give an up-and-coming caterer/chef/business owner?

Don’t be confused that you are in the food business. We are in the service business. The food is a small part of producing an outstanding experience for your clients. It’s true to say that if you go out and have the best meal of your life, but if the service was terrible, you’ll likely never go back. It’s all about the service!

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Jessica N. Abraham-Hogan is the owner of Shorty Produkshins in Orlando, Florida, and specializes in Social Branding and Public Relations for both the Professional Services Industry and Entertainment Business. Over the last 13 years, she has worked with many publications and has created branded content for multiple organizations, Globally.