Maria James

Consultant Director

Maria has a multicultural business background: she has worked in North America, Hong Kong and China, and was the Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. She understands complex business challenges and the importance of building strategic partnerships.

If international business is her starting point, food is Maria’s passion. From owning a restaurant and a catering and event management company, she moved into contract catering in 2012 before becoming an education specialist.  Establishing a lifelong foundation for healthy eating habits starts at a young age with a healthy, balanced diet, therefore, offering food that’s attractive, healthy, and fun, supported by food and nutrition education is essential, and Maria will work closely with your school to achieve this.

Part of Maria’s expertise includes optimising the use of existing facilities, advising on front and back-of-house improvements and developments. It also includes:

  • Operation audits and reviews.
  • Forensic financial analysis.
  • Support for in-house operations.
  • Change management and food transformation programmes.
  • Tender management.
  • Contractor and school negotiations.
  • Labour skills assessment and team development.
  • Support for commercial and community enterprises.

Maria spends her free time hiking in the Welsh hills with her daughter Leilani and Henry the dog, and creating new recipes for her food blog.  Once normal travel resumes, she is looking forward to gathering more recipe ideas from foodie weekends away in Europe.

  • The team, led by Carla McKenzie, were meticulous in every detail. They modelled the cleaning requirements to deliver the optimum solution for the facilities across EMEA, and really took time to understand the culture of our business. I have no hesitation in recommending MYA and its team – they are dedicated and innovative, and always go the extra mile.

    Natalia Ros Vargas, Office Team Leader, Booking.com
  • Carla and her team have broad experience in the industry. Apart from being very supportive in inventing (new) concepts, they also make use of their many years of experience when implementing these concepts. Their ultimate goal is to let people enjoy honest and good food.

    Marcel Bisselink, Owner, Daily Fresh Food, Galeen, Netherlands
  • Carla and her team worked tirelessly with us to ensure our very international and cross-cultural needs were met with great creativity and skill. They listened to us, responded to our needs and delivered above expectations.

    Angela Hencher, Director of Business Administration, Dulwich College, Shanghai Pudong
  • They are brave enough to challenge others in pursuit of the ultimate solution, whether it be behind the scenes with kitchen flow and catering management, or front-of-house service and design.

    Richard Russell, Catering Equipment Distributor Director, Western Blueprint
  • If all companies who serve the independent school sector had your breadth of vision and openness of mind, I have little doubt that the sector would be a richer and more exciting place to be.

    Phillip Godfrey, Bursar, Halliford School
  • During the negotiation process, Carla’s knowledge and expertise enabled our company to achieve a very strong commercial outcome, and some significant savings were yielded from the exercise.

    Penny Arnold, Commercial & Operations Director, Fusion Lifestyle