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Paul Beckley: Career Profile

By Peter Ruddick , 24-Aug-2012
Last updated on 24-Aug-2012 at 11:55 GMT

As head chef at Manchester's The Midland hotel, 38-year-old Paul Beckley works in his native north west but after studying he actually trained in London hotels before working his way through the ranks at The French restaurant at The Midland. He now oversees all the hotel's restaurants and catering.

How I got to where I am now:

Growing up I always enjoyed cooking and trying new food and I was lucky enough to get a place at Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale where I studied before I got the chance to move south to London at a young age and take up a training place at The Park Lane Hotel.

It was my first job and it was a bit of a baptism of fire to be honest - I had a lot to learn. After Mayfair I worked as a chef de partie at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

It was important for my career to move to London but I was pleased to get the chance to return to the north west and then to get a job at The Midland because it is such an iconic hotel in the city.

Working on Park Lane I cooked in some well-known hotel kitchens but for me, growing up, The Midland was the best hotel in Manchester and where anyone who was anyone stayed when they visited.

I worked my way up through the ranks from starting off as a junior sous chef and ending up with the best job - head chef of The French restaurant. I have been at the hotel nearly twelve years and now I oversee The French and the two other restaurants plus all the big events we do.

The French is my passion though - I always knew what I wanted to do if I was in charge and what I would cook. It is famous for classic dishes with a twist using really high quality ingredients.

My greatest achievement:

Becoming head chef at The French restaurant here. It really is an iconic hotel in Manchester - everyone knows this beautiful red brick building. 

The hotel has a reputation for high quality service, which it has earnt over the years, so to represent that everyday with my food is a really big responsibility but one I am passionate about living up to.

Also appearing on the Britain’s Best Chef TV programme on ITV was a very proud moment for me. I got some great feedback on my custard tart with liquorice and blackcurrant sorbet and that recipe is now in the cookbook that went with the show.

My biggest challenge:

The biggest challenge is every day! Trying to evolve and keep up with food trends and cooking styles. 

I thrive on being challenged though especially as there is always so much going on at The Midland. Unlike most chefs I am not just cooking for one restaurant and running, overseeing and planning one kitchen but three plus it is still a very popular place for big events, conferences and banquets.

My biggest inspiration:

When I was in London there were a couple of chefs I worked with, no one famous, who were quite dear to my heart. But really my inspiration is young chefs and people coming into the industry. That is massive for me - I really enjoy helping teach and develop young talent because I remember how it felt coming into the business.

We are actually about to launch an academy apprenticeship scheme here which will give kids on-the-job training and a qualification.

It drives me forward to see young kids develop and flourish into really good chefs following their career paths. 

My advice to young chefs entering the industry:

Stay the course. It is not as glamorous as everybody makes out but stick with it and see the bigger picture.

Everyone sees the glamour side of cooking on the television but when you actually work 14-15 hours in a hot and sweaty kitchen it is quite different. If you are young then you are doing some pretty laborious tasks but if you can still see what the end product that you are creating is you get a sense of achievement and that is true job satisfaction.

When you speak to young kids their mates might be earning two to three times what an apprentice commis earns and it can be hard for them but you need to get them on board and show them job satisfaction and that it is about loving food and loving what you do more than anything.

Most chefs do love their jobs more than anything else in the world. 

If I wasn't working in hospitality...

I would probably be a hairdresser! I don't know why - I am just fascinated by it!

It was never a real career option but when I go to get my haircut it fascinates me - I think it is quite creative and quite similar to what I do in a lot of ways.

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