Take a look at the top of this column. That’s a picture of me. When you turn on your television to watch BBC TV’s Great British Menu or Saturday Kitchen, that’s me too. But the truth is, it’s not just about me – it’s about every member of my team.
Being a chef is all about team work and behind me I have a fantastic team which makes it all possible. I’m a firm believer that you are only as good as your team. La Bécasse is not a one-man band: what I do here in Ludlow simply wouldn’t be possible without my team.
The chefs that work for me are like brothers, or best friends. They help to make the ideas in my head become reality. It’s all very well me creating a dish once but they are the people that have to recreate it time after time after time, night after night. They are the people that maintain the standards and consistency.
The industry of cheffing is very difficult at this level. It’s highly pressurised, stressful and demanding. We all work a lot of anti-social hours, up to 90 per week, and I demand a lot from my team. When chefs sign up to work for me, I expect 18 to 24 months of commitment from them. They are all loyal, dedicated and work hard. In return they get a huge amount of training. They are learning their craft. Cheffing is different from other industries – chefs work for blocks of time for individual chefs and restaurants and then move on to bigger and better things. It’s all about steps on a ladder. I often help my chefs find their next job.
I need a right hand man and at La Bécasse my sous chef is James Walshaw. We’ve worked side by side for two-and-half years. He is a rock. If I’m not here, he runs the kitchen. He ensures everything runs smoothly at all times.
There are six of us in total in the kitchen here: James; Adam Evans, my junior sous chef; Andrew Lynam and Adam Braithwaite who are both chef de parties and real workhorses and Michael Lacey, my kitchen porter. Michael is my longest serving staff member, working here for six years.
We do a lot of things together other than cook. Outside the kitchen we will often socialise together – whether it is going for a few beers together, having a barbecue at my house, going go karting, playing football or going running. When I was training intensively for an amateur boxing bout, the lads came with me to do my cardio training. And at Christmas each year, I always take them on a fancy dress pub crawl around Ludlow. There’s nothing like a bit of bonding when it comes to working with people you respect.