How did you find your way into your profession? Did you have any other career considerations?
I started working in the kitchen at the age of 15. I worked as a pot cleaner at Firenze in my home town Glossop, and was an opportunity to earn some cash while I was in school and at college. Once my A-Levels were finished, I had to make a decision; go to university or continue in the kitchen. I was three years into my restaurant career and starting to blossom as a young chef. I followed my heart and decided to stay in the kitchen.
What makes you passionate about your profession?
It simply comes down to the love and appreciation of food itself, whether it’s a simple sandwich, cooked breakfast or a high standard and complex menu fit for a Michelin starred restaurant, and to appreciate what food is, you have to care about the journey that the food has taken to reach our kitchens. This marks the difference between a lot of chefs, and you can’t really buy or enforce this kind of passion. It cannot be trained; it must be natural, and comes with time. You cannot expect a trainee chef to become passionate over night, but if they can’t find it then they should think about finding another trade. Finding a passionate chef is a hard task, but when you find it, commitment will shortly follow along with pride and enthusiasm. In my profession, learning never stops and as an individual you always strive to improve.
Which events throughout the course of your career have shaped you most as a chef?
The most significant event that shaped my career was joining the Radisson Hotel Group at the age of 22. This was a big change, as I was previously working in a small independent restaurant with 100 covers, so moving to a 360 bedroom luxury hotel with 3 dining outlets really opened my eyes to a professional catering operation, working within a brigade of 25 chefs. I quickly established myself and again was promoted through the ranks.
Where do you draw inspiration from in delivering your ideas for your establishment?
Inspiration is easy in Manchester. You are competing with some fantastic chefs, and it’s that competition that makes you strive to be better and keep progressing, to profile yourself and your restaurants. As a chef you draw back on ideas you have seen before, or look to well established mentors for direction. I often advise junior chefs to buy good quality cook books to aid menu planning.
How essential is the support from your team in delivering your ideas, and how do work with your team to ensure your ideas are realised?
I have a great team ethic in the kitchen. A lot is done to ensure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet; we have set goals, targets and aspirations which we regularly discuss and feed back on our progress. Most importantly the team need to believe in their leader, and believe in their targets. It is extremely important that when recruiting chefs they buy in straight away to you and your plans. My team are extremely supportive within the kitchen and as a manager you need to find appropriate ways of repaying their efforts.
Which food or drink producer would you recommend using and working with from the North West?
I absolutely love working with Frost butchers, simply for the quality and commitment they give. Their produce is all local and fantastic. I also love to work with Pendrill’s Foods, a North West based cheese suppliers, which offer some fantastic products and a high level of commitment to their customers. Peter Papprill of Pendrill’s has recently won a life time achievement award for his work within our industry.
What is your vision for the food, drink and hospitality industry in the North West? How would you like to see the industry develop?
The north west is developing year on year, we have some great chefs now in and around the city; Aiden Byrne, Andrew Nutter, Paul Heathcoate, Nigel Haworth, David Gale, Ian Matfin and Brain Mellor are all working across our region and developing chefs through the ranks year on year, which is just fantastic for the trade. I would love to see a Michelin star in the city centre, but until then just for our local heroes to keep raising the standards and put the north west on the culinary map.