Pub Chef Opinion: Finding good chefs is no easy matter

By Simon Kalton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cook, Cooking

Kalton: "My advice to any young chef out there is to try and gain experience before you decide on a career in this industry."
Kalton: "My advice to any young chef out there is to try and gain experience before you decide on a career in this industry."
How to employ a good chef? Well, I’m no expert, but I have worked for, alongside and employed a great number of chefs during my life.

Whether they’ve turned out to be as good as they told me they would, or stayed as long as they promised is another story. Nothing surprises me anymore with regard to employing chefs.

The trick is to find a chef that can tick all the boxes — great at service, food, preparation and recipes — they do exist!

For me, the key to having a successful business is getting your service and food offer spot on. Having our own recipe and spec book has enabled us to create consistency in our pubs. This control means that whatever changes are happening behind the scenes, our quality of
produce and presentation will remain the same.

So what am I looking for in a chef? An honest reference from a reliable source is always a good start. Then there’s cleanliness, politeness, confidence and ambition. Prima donnas need not apply. I want someone who understands their role in this business.

I’ve employed many talented young chefs who start with me as part-time kitchen hands and work their way up and you can spot those with potential pretty quickly. Inevitably they go off to gain experience or they do something silly so we pack them off. However, I am a sucker for second chances and I’ve gained more loyalty and sometimes a more well-rounded chef once I’ve brought them back into the fold. But there’s a limit to my patience.

I always insist on a two-day free trial as I’m quite laid back and haven’t really honed the best interviewing technique so I find that the proof is literally in the pudding. Typically, day one incorporates a whirlwind tour of the workings of our kitchen, an intro to the team and our food philosophy, menus and recipes. After basic prep work, we ask them to produce an omelette.

Sous chefs spend a second day supporting the chef on pass to gain an understanding of how our dishes are cooked and presented. I also like to throw them in the deep end just for a few moments to see how they perform on the pass under the inevitable pressure.

My advice to any young chef out there is to try and gain experience before you decide on a career in this industry. It’s rewarding but it’s undeniably tough.

Look for a reputable business with a strong kitchen that can throw up some interesting opportunities and be prepared to put in the hours. Cheffing to me is all about honing your passion and turning out great food every time.

It doesn’t matter if you’re creating Michelin dishes or good hearty pub grub, just make sure you’ve delivered the best you can, on budget, on time, every time.

Oh, and if there are any ‘I tick all the boxes’ chefs reading this, please come and find me and I’ll provide the eggs...

Simon Kalton is owner of the Boat, Erbistock, near Wrexham

Related topics: Chefs

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