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Hidden Heroes: Lives of the chefs behind the restaurant industry's famous faces

By Peter Ruddick , 03-Oct-2012

Related topics: People, Restaurants

Behind every restaurant industry big name, high-profile restaurateur or Michelin-starred chef is a hard-working chef heading up a kitchen with someone else's name above the door - this month BigHospitality celebrated those hidden heroes with a video investigating the lives of the chefs behind the chefs.

Restaurant magazine invited eight leading chefs who work for well-known personalities such as Heston Blumenthal, Sat Bains, Simon Rogan and Marcus Wareing to a photo shoot in an East London studio.

BigHospitality was there to quiz four on how their role with their boss works on a day-to-day basis, what lessons have passed between employer and employee and whether they secretly harbour ambitions to move out of the shadows and into the limelight.

Day-to-day

Depending on the industry, TV or other commitments of their boss, the chefs cooking behind stoves belonging to someone else have differing levels of autonomy. 

"Heston is quite busy but he is still there and he is still in Bray quite often," Jonny Lake, head chef at The Fat Duck, explained. "We have scheduled tastings in terms of development work where we start with him then progress the idea ourselves and then have tastings with him to make sure everything is going the way we want it to go."

While Chris Gillard, head chef at St John, is very much in charge of the Clerkenwell venue and single-handedly delivers Fergus Henderson's vision, Marcus Wareing is much more in control of small details at his restaurant at The Berkeley as Darren Velvick, executive chef there, revealed.

"He is a very focused man, very driven, He just doesn't stop looking for faults - even if as a chef you think the kitchen is spotless he will always find something. Sometimes it is really annoying but that is why he is where he is."

Ambitions

Some of these chefs have worked under a big-name personality for more than 10 years - so do they not wish they cooked somewhere where they received all the plaudits?

The answers might surprise some people in the industry.

While Mark Birchall, head chef at Simon Rogan's L'Enclume, says every chef's ambition is to operate their own restaurant, Gillard is happy continuing to improve the St John offer and Lake said the draw of being able to work with the high level of staff, recipes and equipment at The Fat Duck would keep him in Bray for now.

"I think I am getting to a period in my life where I have worked behind the scenes for Marcus and now it is time for me to start profiling myself," Velvick  said revealing his hope to follow in the footsteps of Ashley Palmer-Watts at Dinner.

To hear the thoughts of the number two chefs in full watch the video above or read the Restaurant magazine feature in the October edition of the mag - to subscribe to Restaurant, click here.

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