Matthew Gadsden, junior sous chef at the Pheasant in Betchworth, Surrey, told The Morning Advertiser why being a pub chef is so rewarding, adding that pubs need to serve good food for the business to become successful.
Currently, I am a junior sous chef working for a company with expertise in creating and expanding country-style pubs all over the UK. I have worked in the catering industry since I was 17 and, this year, celebrated my seventh year in the trade. I am so thankful I get to do this as a job.
What inspired you to become a chef?
The main reason for getting into the catering industry was because I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps in catering. A chef himself, I feel I have big boots to fill.
I've worked my way up to the position I hold now. I started as a kitchen porter while doing my GCSEs for one of my dad's friends. After that, I went on to do an apprenticeship and worked under my dad for a few years. He taught me a lot when it comes to being a chef and I intend to continue his professionalism and dedication.
What do you like about being a pub chef?
Everything. Simple as that. Compared with other places I've worked, working in a pub is by far the best. Working in a family-orientated pub makes it a very welcoming place to be. It's easy to get on with others and it's a great atmosphere to be part of. The best reward from working in a pub is seeing regular customers coming back to try my food.
I've worked in places where you're expected to work from 6am until midnight for seven days a week with barely any breaks, minimum pay and no time to eat. Working in a pub has been the complete opposite of that, you're valued and customers are always such a joy to serve.
If your pub isn't producing good food it's much more likely to fail, that's why we have such high standards at the Pheasant.
Are there any benefits?
My expertise is in French-style cooking and my favourite section in a kitchen is pastry – slightly ironic considering I'm a Type 1 diabetic. I've had diabetes since I was 10. It's by far the biggest battle I'll ever face working in a kitchen, but I make it work. It was hard getting used to, but I wasn't going to let it stop me fulfilling what I want to do in my life.
As a chef, I feel like I have benefited from the condition. As a kid, I was always looking at what I could and couldn't eat, what was bad and what was good, what to try and what to avoid. It has helped me learn how to count carbohydrates and allowed me to cater for other people with diabetes, which is becoming a very common disease. It affects one in 17 people on average in the UK and my aim is to create food diabetics can enjoy, love and not have to worry about affecting their blood sugar levels.
What advice would you give to budding chefs looking to join the industry?
Cooking isn't just a career for me, it's a way of life. I think people who are looking at getting into this industry need to realise it's a job that requires a lot of commitment. It is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be prepared to work for 12 hours without stopping. You need to be able to work as a team. More importantly, you need to be passionate about cooking.