How I got here:
I went to Thanet College in Broadstairs, Kent, and really enjoyed it. In my third year I was named Patisserie Chef of the Year. When I left I started working at Selsdon Park Hotel in Croydon in the pastry department as a commis chef, but after three months I found I wasn’t learning anything anymore. I was only 18 and saw other great pastry chefs around me dropping out of the profession, and wondered whether it was the right career path for me.
I moved over to Roux Restaurants as chef de partie on pastry but decided to make the move over to hot kitchen, which was a massive learning curve because by that time I was way behind my peers in terms of skill and pace. I was there for four years, before I joined the Hurlingham Club as junior sous chef.
After that I left and joined Chez Nico where I met Chris and Jeff Galvin. I was only there seven months but as Chris had just opened the Orrery I decided to move over with him. I was junior sous when he won his Michelin star in 2000.
Over the next year or so I worked in Bluebird Club to get my first head chef position, which I did, and also at Jeff’s L’Escargot and Aurora restaurant at Great Eastern Hotel.
But I soon went back to Orrery, this time as head chef. I was taking over from Andre Garrett and questioned whether I could retain his Michelin star, but I did. Twelve months later and I went back to work with the Galvins at Bistrot du Luxe, before moving to The Aviator in Farnborough.
I was there two years before I decided to come back to London and D&D as head chef of Plateau.
Why I gave up pastry:
I got swept up into pastry for about two years, but I thought that unless you open your own business or work in a big hotel your options are limited. Plus you can only earn so much money. Pastry chefs don’t get the recognition they deserve you get some great chefs in London.
I found it extremely difficult to move from pastry back to kitchen, because I was three or four years behind everyone else. It was hard to move over despite pastry experience.
On life at Plateau:
Having worked with D&D at Orrery Plateau was an easy move back into town. I love coming into Canary Wharf - not the jubilee line - but because its clean, with lovely clientele who understand food. You don’t get many gripes about prices you charge.
Since I’ve been here there’s been a change in the demographic. The people we attract especially at lunchtime now are mums and dads going out for treat with their kids. We don’t get as many suits coming in anymore. The first thing I did when I arrived was reduce the prices as I felt they were too high. I wanted a bargain for the lunch set menu and reviewed all a la carte prices and its working for us.
We are kept on our toes especially with Boisdale opening soon, but wherever you go in London there’ll be restaurants opening and closing. We just need to be very careful and clever about what we do and not compromise on standards or food and make sure what we’re serving is to the best of our ability.
On chef competitions:
When I left college I worked with a competition chef called Freddie Jones at Selsdon Park. He gave me the inspiration to become a competition chef. I represented Britain in the junior British team of chefs with Simon Hulstone, the Roux scholarship twice and was a runner up once, the National Chef of the Year once, again with Simon, and intend to do it again this year. Simon is a great friend, a master of his art and a legend. He inspired me to go on for NCOTY this year. If he can go and do Bocuse d’Or twice there’s no reason I can’t get my act together and do NCOTY again.
With competitions you’ve got to have the drive to keep going back and doing it again if you don’t win first time. The guy that won Bocuse d’Or this year has been doing it eight years. I’d get divorced if I went forward for that though.
On balancing home and work life:
I’ve got three little boys at home and have to find a happy balance between work and home. I’m very lucky to be where I am.
On the future:
The ultimate dream is to have my own place and be my own boss - you have a greater degree of flexibility as long as you have a good number two. I’m not so bothered about getting Michelin stars – I’ve got three stars at home, four including my missus.
The ultimate dream would be to have Michelin recognition but the immediate dream is to get the three AA rosettes back here for Plateau. It would be a sign we’re going in the right direction. We’ll have to wait and see – it’ll be an interesting ride.