Jones ‒ who is this year’s chair of judges for the 2018 National Chef of the Year and Young Chef of the Year (NCOTY & YNCOTY) and has led the brigade at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir since 1999 ‒ spoke to BigHospitality about chef development.
He gave his advice on how chefs can learn to flourish in competitions, and in other high-pressure environments.
“The best advice I ever got was taste everything and work hard,” he says. “When I first started though, I did really long days, often much more than 12 hours. Nowadays, we're lucky we can reduce the number of hours our chefs work and reduce the shift to 12 hour days or less.
“Now we’re lucky enough to have the support to employ more chefs, I want them to use their time off as well, doing a sport or a martial art or something else. This will keep them fit and sharp, and then they can come to the kitchen and put in the hours of graft when they are here, and be efficient as possible. If they do that, competitions will be like water off a duck’s back.
“I think right now Britain is in a good place with young chefs compared to 20 years ago. You can go to any county in Great Britain now and have a good meal. That wasn't the case before. But we've got to keep pushing the boat out too.”
Jones’ career has included working his way up to chef de partie on sauce at the three Michelin starred Waterside Inn in Bray, before coming to Le Manoir as chef de partie, quickly becoming sous chef, and taking on the executive chef position in 1999.
With Raymond Blanc as a mentor for over 20 years, he has since helped to train scores of new recruits at Le Manoir, and estimates that 18 of his former chefs have since gone on to win their own Michelin stars.
Most recently, this has included Nick Edgar, previously head chef at Le Manoir and now head chef at the Michelin starred The Samling hotel in Cumbria.
Jones added that Le Manoir has played a strong role in training recent winners of the NCOTY and YNCOTY contests, including Luke Selby, 2014 YNCOTY winner.
He is not the only chef to reduce chefs’ working hours in recent years. Sat Bains, of the eponymous two Michelin starred Nottinghamshire Restaurant with Rooms, has also done so, to help improve staff morale and work-life balance.
Gary Jones was speaking to BigHospitality about the National Chef of the Year 2018 contest, what the judges are looking for, and what it’s like training Michelin-level chefs. Read the full interview here soon