Jeff Whitaker, CEO of Whitco Catering and Baking Equipment, has passed away after a short illness.

Widely known throughout the catering industry, Whitaker built up his business 22 years ago, with wife Vita, and fuelled the company’s growth and inspired trust among colleagues, employees, suppliers and customers.

Whitaker started his career as a student at Hull Catering College as he aspired to join the merchant navy and to see the world. He later went on to become the sales director at USS Catering & Bakery Equipment in Kettering for eight-and-a-half years, establishing a successful sales department.

Whitco said he had an appetite for hard work and taking the long-term view, with “stick at it” being his favourite mantra. The company added he would be remembered for his winning smile that seemed to enter the room just before he did.

Whitco said it had appreciated the messages of sympathy received from across the industry.