Tag Archives: MacLean Fraser

Working in “Paradise”…

Living and working on a tropical island

DSC_1735The standard remark from people when I tell them where I work is “wow it must be great working in paradise!” Although I think people forget that working somewhere and being on holiday there are two completely different experiences! Working somewhere with a stunning view is great but unless you manage to have a good life/work balance then the inside of the kitchen walls all look the same no matter which part of the world they are in.

Problems and solutions

Living on an island can feel a little bit like Alcatraz sometimes and the boarding school mentality can sometimes set it. The saying “don’t shit where you sleep” is not applicable in these circumstances! It is important to stay away from the gossip and the politics for once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny. Make sure you get your own space so you can separate yourself from work. Working and living on site can be great because you’re nice and close to work and can be at work quickly if something goes tits up, but it can also be difficult because you’re nice and close to work and are often back at work quickly when things go tits up. Whether you go for a swim, go to the gym, play some Xbox or go on a day trip, it is a really good idea to get a break from the scenery, the people and the work to mentally recharge your batteries.

Different cultures

People in different parts of the world work and live in different ways. A multi-national kitchen brigade is no different. Often some nationalities will naturally have difficulties working together due to cultural differences. There are often language barriers also. It can also be a struggle sometimes trying to manage a diverse group of people. For example in one person’s culture it may be disrespectful to give someone a “no” answer, so one needs to take this into consideration when asking questions such as “is all the prep done?”  Or “did you follow the recipe?” As a manager it is up to you to learn the right approach to get the best out of your staff and understand and embrace these cultural differences.


Working in a remote location or a semi-remote location poses a number of issues that one takes for granted when working in a city. When working in the CBD of a modern city you expect to be able to place your order at the end of the night, for the delivery to arrive by a set time in the morning and for the quantity and product to be correct and for the item to be of good quality. In remote locations, despite all your morals pointing away from it, sometimes you have no choice but to work out of the freezer. Perhaps you can only get a seafood or meat delivery one time a week or maybe even longer. You need to make a choice; do we buy in chilled and either run the risk of running out or serving old product? Not serve meats at all, or serve pre-frozen meats and defrost them carefully in the chiller overnight? Because of your location you sometimes have to make these difficult decisions. Often it is best to look at what’s available and work with that rather than trying to do something that is often unavailable or bad quality and end up pulling your hair out. All that you can do is do your best with what you’ve got.


IMG_1113Working on an island (third time for me now) can be a very rewarding and challenging experience. If you go back to civilization then things do seem a hell of a lot easier! Make sure you try to make the most of what you have and enjoy it while you can. Don’t focus on the negatives and how you would like things, go with the flow and embrace that which you do have, not stress over what you don’t.

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Moet and Magret

General Manager vs Chef, Centara Ras Fushi


GM back in the whites: slipping on the chef’s jacket like slipping into a warm bath

It seemed like a great idea at the time, although 13 hours in with sore legs and sweating like a fat kid in a candy store I was wondering the soundness of my decision. Having recently come to the Maldives I had last worked with my General Manager 8 years ago when he was my Executive Chef and I was a CDP with considerably fresher legs and lower cholesterol. Considering how much effort it now takes me to get to the bottom of the service fridge and how painful a once normal split shift has become, I was looking forward to seeing my old chef don his whites and sweat it out in the kitchen one more time. We took over the Italian restaurant and show kitchen and created a 5 course menu for the night. Avoiding cooking for a full restaurant alone Hell’s Kitchen styles we sensibly took 2 courses each: myself scallops and duck, Ulrich prawns and dessert; the winner decided by popular vote. With pride on the line and the promise of some champagne we sharpened the knives and started cooking. 

And so it begins…


Sautéed king prawns, mussel salad and roast capsicum gazpacho w fennel seed wafer



Moet & Chandon & passion fruit palette cleanser

Pork and scallops w pea puree and salted caramel

Szechuan pork belly and scallops w pancetta, pea puree and salted caramel

Confit duck plate up

Confit duck w porcini risotto, sugar cured breast, star anise foam and coffee hazelnut praline


Make sure you don’t forget to drizzle…


Ulrich’s dessert: Flambe peach w strawberry Swiss roll and vanilla bean ice cream

 And the winner is…..        

With a ballot system reminiscent of the Florida election 2000 the GM wins. Until next time… But now it’s time for a drink!


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Restaurant Jekyll and Hyde

photo(1)The restaurant industry is a strange and fickle beast. A reputation can take years upon years of hard slog, blood, sweat and possibly tears (literally) to create and only seconds to destroy. Ever heard of the saying “you’re only as good as your last dish”? This is usually followed by “and right now, you’re a c**t”… In order to run a successful restaurant or kitchen to a consistently high standard you need to be like the gestapo; eyes and ears everywhere and know EVERYTHING that goes on with EVERYONE. There’s two things the X-Files and kitchens have in common. They’re both full of strange interesting characters living in the fringes of society and they both have the same tagline: Trust NO-ONE. Or as one of my first chef’s eloquently put: “don’t trust any fu**er”… (chef’s are well known for their colourful language; it’s one of the things that makes us so interesting right?). If for one second you decide to turn your back, think “yeah nothing’s happening now until our late bookings, I can nip out for a cigarette”, that’s when your commis chef will accidentally send out the medium rare chicken and fuck everything up for you. You need to be anal in the extreme. Nothing should go out unless it’s up to your standard. This will not make you friends. But this will give you happy customers. Hopefully. If you are really lucky you will have some allies in the kitchen who will be your eyes and ears. People who “get you”, understand what your standard is and how you work. Know your pet hates. Hang onto these people and look after them because they are more valuable than their weight in gold. They will certainly make your life a hell of a lot easier and hopefully mean you can do less than 70hrs per week.

What does it take to piss off a customer? Sometimes a lot and sometimes nothing. I find it very interesting how people behave in restaurants and bars. I’m sure it would make a very good psychology paper for someone. It seems to me that hospitality is the only industry in which people feel like they can turn into pricks the second they walk through the door. Seemingly normal and respectable people, people with families and jobs; they have the ability to turn into monsters inside the doors where alcohol and food are served. Maybe it’s something to do with wanting to wind down and relax that somehow the rules of the outside world don’t apply. I have narrowed it down to a few cliche customer types that seem to appear no matter where you go:

Sir grab-a-lot – These are the guys that try and slap the waitresses arses and use such stunning lines as “so whats the cream sauce like? How would you like to try my cream sauce sweet heart?”. A restaurant is not a strip bar. And everybody knows that the golden rule in a strip bar is no touching. Unless you are VIP…

Aggressive drunk – “What do you mean you can only serve me a glass of water?! I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough!” (falls over taking a bar stool with him). This is where you hope you work in a dodgy enough place so as to have a bouncer.

Chronic complainer – The food’s too hot, the wine’s too cold, I don’t like my table, the people over there are laughing too much, I don’t like anything on the menu, this costs too much etc…I remember once have a dish sent back because it wasn’t hot enough, it was pretty hot so we heated it again, and back it came, so we nuked the shit out of it and it still came back. I’m sorry but on this planet with this atmosphere the hottest I can get a liquid before it turns to steam so unless you are on another planet (which you quite possibly are) then I can’t do much more for you.

Cheater – This is the person who tries tricks like orders a drink from one person, hides the glass and then complains to another person that they never got it. Or order the steak, eat 90% of it and then complain it’s under cooked.

Menu changers – “Can I have the fish but without the spice crust, the sauce from the beef and do you do paella? Can I have some paella with it too? I’m allergic to onion, garlic, salt, chilli and herbs.” I would suggest eating at home…

Vegans (et al) – Now not to say anything against vegans, I actually respect proper vegans or anyone who has decided that something is morally wrong and stick to their guns. I think a hell of a lot of animals are treated badly on their journey ending on our tables, that’s why I try my best to make sure that I know where my ingredients come from, how they’re produced and whether or not they’re sustainable without a negative affect on the environment. However if you are a vegan do not come to a steak house and then complain.

Cheap skates and hagglers – If you buy petrol and then drive off without paying you would expect to get arrested. ‘Doing a runner’ is what other people would call ‘stealing from a restaurant’. And unless you are on Khao San Road in Bangkok or in another acceptable place such as Saigon or Mumbai then don’t haggle. You don’t go to the dentist and haggle and the prices they charge are mental so why haggle over a sandwich?!

Money flashers – “I will have the Wagyu well done and your most expensive MerloTT,make sure it’s well chilled and hurry up about it” = Plonker.

Bill splitters – Is there anything more dreadful to hear to a cashier than “can we split the bill 12 ways?” Paying up should be a quick and painless experience, not a torturous ordeal with detailed investigations and discussions. If you must split the bill evenly and if you are a large group consider cash. Having to individually itemise a large party’s dishes and then have to split the fries or a bottle of wine by 3/7th’s because someone only had “half of one glass” and someone else had “2 and 1/3 glasses” it a total nightmare.

The internet food expert – It is amazing how the anonymity of the internet allows people with no qualifications in restaurant reviewing the opportunity to express their expertise. Yet these same people will not complain in person when given the chance to actually address their issue and maybe enjoy their night. “How is your meal?” “Fine thank you…” and then the next day you read on the internet a post headed: “Disgusting food and rubbish service, never again”. I remember one table of two ordered lamb cutlets so we roast a whole rack and then carved it for both. One of the two said it was perfect and his wife said it was undercooked. Our offer of cooking it some more was declined. The next day I read on the internet how I told them to “just shut up and eat it”… At least it made for a more interesting story than the truth!

Other hospos – Believe it or not we are actually our own worse enemies. People in the restaurant industry work hard and usually “play hard”. The group of people with tattoo’s who are obviously intoxicated, breaking furniture, stealing alcohol and shagging in the toilets? They probably work at the restaurant down the road…

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Tom Kha Goong – Thai prawn soup

WR8A9383Until I worked with Thai chefs I thought Tom Yum soup was Tom Yum soup. There are actually many variations; all different and delicious in their own way. Now here’s a quick Thai lesson as I see it:

Tom Kha = Creamy soup (coconut cream or evaporated milk)

Tom Yum = Clear soup

Gai = Chicken

Goong = Prawns

Talay = Seafood

Here is my recipe for my favorite Thai soup, Tom Kha Goong, or spicy prawn and lemongrass soup with coconut and mushrooms. Feel free to use chicken stock but I actually prefer to shell the prawns and use the heads and shells to make my own prawn stock.


Tom Kha Goong
Serves 6
Thai prawn, coconut and lemongrass spicy soup
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
45 min
  1. 200g Prawns
  2. 800ml Chicken Stock (or prawn stock)
  3. 2 sticks Lemongrass
  4. 3-4 Fresh red chilli
  5. 100g Straw mushroom (canned is still ok)
  6. 100g punnet Cherry tomatoes
  7. 3cl Garlic
  8. 1knob ginger (or galangal)
  9. 2-4 Limes (juice)
  10. Fish sauce (nam pla) - to taste
  11. 1/2 bunch Coriander
  12. 200ml Coconut cream (or evaporated milk)
  13. 6 Kaffir lime leaves
  1. Peel and slice the ginger, slice the garlic and slice the lemongrass and chilli (reserve some chilli for garnish).
  2. Pound lightly the kaffir lime leaves with your knife handle to release some of the oils.
  3. Bring the stock to the simmer and add the ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli. Infuse for 15-20 minutes. Halve the mushrooms and add to the soup with the whole cherry tomatoes and prawns and gently cook until the prawns are just done.
  4. Add the coconut cream.
  5. Season with some fish sauce and lime juice and a little sugar if you like.
  6. Transfer to bowls and finish with some of the reserved chilli and coriander.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/

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Brawn w smoked oysters, celeriac remoulade and cider reduction

Brawn w pickled tongue, smoked oysters and vanilla cider reduction

You can’t get much more old school than brawn. If you haven’t tried it you’re really missing out, just don’t be put off that it is essentially a jellied boiled pigs head. If you don’t want to make it with the other accompaniments then you can serve a big slice of it with some crusty baguette and chutney. 

Brawn with smoked oyster, crackling, cider and celeriac
Serves 12
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 45 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 45 min
  1. 1 pigs head
  2. 2 carrots
  3. ½ leek
  4. 2 sticks celery
  5. 3 cl garlic
  6. 3 bay leaves
  7. 2 sprigs thyme
  8. 1 onion
Pickle mix
  1. 400ml Red wine vinegar
  2. 400g Sugar
  3. 800ml water
  4. 4 star anise
  5. 4 cloves
  6. 4 bay leaves
  7. 2 sprig thyme
  8. 12 peppercorns
  9. 8cl garlic
  10. 1 tspn Coriander seeds
Pork crackling
  1. pork skin
  2. salt
Tea-smoked oysters
  1. 1 dozen oysters
  2. 50g Brown sugar
  3. 50g Jasmine tea
  4. 50g Rice
Vanilla and Cider reduction
  1. 500ml Cider
  2. 200ml Apple juice
  3. 1 Vanilla pod
Celeriac Remoulade
  1. Celeriac
  2. Mayo
  3. Wholegrain mustard
  4. Italian Parsley
Brawn part 1
  1. Remove tongues and set aside to pickle.
  2. Soak heads in running water to remove any blood.
  3. Place in a pot with the peeled carrots and all other ingredients, top with water and simmer until meat is falling off the bone.
For the tongues
  1. Simmer tongues in pickling mix until very tender (may need to top up with water if it evaporates too much).
  2. Set aside and remove outside skin and any fat etc. Roughly shred.
Brawn assembly
  1. Pass and keep the veg.
  2. Shred the meat medium coarse, discarding any sinew and skin/bones.
  3. It’s nice if you keep some skin, fat and anything that isn’t bone.
  4. Dice three carrots and mince with your knife one onion and one leek. Mix together with the pickled tongue the meat and veg, season, roll tight and torque in glad wrap (or set in a terrine mould) and leave to set overnight.
For the crackling
  1. Scrape fat off back of pork skin and score, cut into 1cm x 5cm pieces, season, press and roast in a hot oven until crispy.
For the smoked oysters
  1. Allow smoke mix to get going well before placing oysters on rack over it
  2. Turn off flame-cover loosely –allow to infuse, store in light olive oil w bouquet garni.
For the reduction
  1. Split vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out into the pot, combine all ingredients and simmer to a light syrup.
For the remoulade
  1. Julienne celeriac, soak in acidulated water.
  2. Drain and dry, fold though mayo, add dijon to taste and chopped herbs.
  3. Season.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/


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Why I love Thai food


As I sit at the over water bar on my day off, computer on my lap and cocktail in my hand, I turn to my wife and ask what “would you like to do for dinner?” This is always a big decision for me and sometimes drives my wife up the bend. Despite what most people think about chefs, I am not a fussy eater, I will try almost anything and enjoy any food no matter how simple or humble if it is done well. Deciding what to eat sometimes can be a big decision; sometimes it’s all so good! “Let’s have Thai” my wife responds and I happily agree.

View from Italian looking over pool bar

I am all about Thai food right now and have always appreciated it since trying “real Thai” during my first posting in Asia. When at Pacific Regency hotel in KL I had the pleasure of overseeing a Thai restaurant. Luckily for me the whole Thai kitchen brigade were Thai and were led by a very talented cook Alex (real name unknown). Most of the experiences I had (thought) I had with Thai food back home had actually been watered down and “westernized” versions of stock standard Thai staples. Often cooked by non-Thai and executed poorly.


Why do I have such a soft spot for Thai food? Perhaps it reminds me of good times. It’s fresh and spicy with clean, vibrant and clearly defined flavors;  many things that many great dishes aspire to be irrespective of style or country of origin. It has appeal to everyone, whether sitting in the fine dining Thai restaurant on the 23rd story of my old hotel in KL with my then girlfriend (later my fiancee then wife) or sitting with old friends in a car park on cheap plastic tables and chairs in Bangkok it’s just so goddamn enjoyable. Apparently there’s a chemical in chili’s which react with the receptors in the tongue the same way as heat (no shit) and register as burning, this pain causes the body to release endorphin’s. So it’s fresh, spicy and gives you endorphin’s… what more could you want?!


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How to make it as a chef…


Being a chef is one of those jobs that many people think would be cool but don’t understand the reality of the industry. With the recent explosion in the last few years of cooking shows, reality TV and the rise of the celebrity chef, it is a career path that has become glorified by the few who make a living totally unlike the other 99% of people who do this “noble toil”. I think back to when I did my chef training and the motley crew of (mostly) rejects of society who for a plethora of reasons (if any) decided to start down the path of culinary glory. Or perhaps they just didn’t have the grades to get into uni.

So without further ado here is my list for:

How to make it as a chef

(or how to not get yelled at and possibly fired when working in a kitchen).

Look the part

The first step in being a chef is looking like a chef. How you present yourself reflects on how you will work. If you turn up looking like you have slept in your uniform and don’t care enough to have had a shower or shaved then chances are you also don’t care too much about your work.

Work clean

Nobody wants to work with a messy chef, how you look and work is an insight into your present state of mind. If you look a mess and your work station is a mess then your thoughts are probably a mess. In which case you probably won’t be able to work in a logical and organised manner and then you are a liability to yourself and those around you.

Do as you are told

When working in a kitchen one needs to understand it is a high pressure environment with very real and serious time constraints. There is nothing more annoying than someone with an opinion you didn’t ask for. Opinions are like arseholes; everybody’s got one. Assume your head chef/sous chef didn’t get where they were by being an idiot so if they tell you a specific way of doing something then it’s best to do it. When you’ve spend years learning your craft and are in a position to do things your way then you can tell people how you want things (and hope they do as they’re told…)

Keep it to yourself

(or don’t trust any fucker)

When working a busy service there is nothing more annoying than someone telling you their life story when asked a quick simple question. The longest response generally accepted in a very busy service is of two words in length; yes chef, no chef or 2 minutes are the safest answers. This goes for when prepping as well, if someone is pissing you off then the best bet is to assume whatever you tell someone it will get back to them. The safest topics are girls, sports and taking the piss out of the junior staff/waiters.

Be reliable

If your chef asks you to do something and you do it when and how you said you would then you will be a real asset. I mentioned already not to trust anyone, if you become the person that the chef can trust then you will go places. Be reliable with your time and attendance. The work in the kitchen is very time sensitive and isn’t like any other job where if you leave on Friday then the work will still be there on your desk on Monday. If you do a dreaded ‘no show’ at work or turn up late then other people will have to pick up your slack and do your work and possibly even get the feared phone call on your day off. Do this enough times and your team will start to resent you, stop helping you when you are ‘in the weeds’, be apathetic if they see somethings of yours in the oven about to burn or even be pro active in stitching you up. Moral of the story is: turn up to work!

Don’t chase the money

The work might suck, the money is rubbish, your head chef may be a prick, but if you’re learning something and progressing your career then stick it out. Think about the long term. If you work in respected places learning from good chefs then you can go far. The wider your base the further you can reach. Think about what you want to do and where you want to go and make a plan on how you’re going to get there then execute it. If you get fed up and throw in the towel early in your career when the work is the toughest then that is as far as you will go. Stick it out and have a plan and who knows, you might even make it to the top.

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Lamb rack recipe and E-book on it’s way…

Here’s a preview of the upcoming E-book. For this particular recipe I used  Leelands lamb shoulder racks. Leelands Lamb is run by Bill French in Invercargill, New Zealand and in my opinion their lamb is one of the best in the world. Here I have used a lamb shoulder rack and cooked it pink. Unless you have a very high quality lamb shoulder then I would suggest you use a traditional lamb rack for this.

Dukkah crusted lamb w artichokes, beetroot & brains


Spice crusted lamb shoulder rack, salt n pepper brains, Jerusalem artichokes, broad beans, beetroot puree
Serves 8
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min
Lamb brains
  1. one per person
Lamb racks
  1. ½ rack per person
Court Bouillon
  1. (see basics)
Salt n pepper flour
  1. 500 gr tempura flour
  2. 2 T gr. black pepper
  3. 2 T sea salt
  4. 2 t seven spice
  5. 2 nori sheets toasted-ground
  6. Spiced beetroot puree
  7. 20g coriander seeds
  8. 20g cumin seeds
  9. 5 g allspice
  10. 1kg beetroot
  11. 60g greek yoghurt
  12. 30ml olive oil
  13. 2 tspn balsamic
  1. Jerusalem artichokes
  2. Broad beans
  1. Store bought or make your own (see basics)
For the spice flour
  1. Grind together the spices and mix well with the flour.
  2. Keep in an air tight container.
For the brains
  1. Combine all the court bouillon ingredients together and simmer for 15mins to infuse.
  2. Drop the brains in, simmer for 2mins and then remove from the heat and leave for 5-10mins, then drain.
  3. Can cool in the fridge for later use or use straight away.
  4. Dust in the salt n pepper flour and deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season.
For the puree
  1. Bake the beetroot in the oven at 160 with a cup of water until tender. (This will take about an hour). Check half way through to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated; you only need about a centimetre in the bottom of the tray.
  2. Once cooked remove, discard the water and rub off the skins while still hot. You will want to use disposable gloves for this.
  3. Roast off the spices and grind to a powder.
  4. Cut the beetroot roughly and while still hot blend together with all the other ingredients.
  5. Season.
For the veg
  1. Peel the artichokes and cook in salted water until just cooked.
  2. If you overcook they will turn to mush.
  3. Peel the broad beans and wash.
To serve
  1. Roast the lamb roll in dukkah after resting for 10mins then carve.
  2. Pan fry thin slices of the Jerusalem artichokes in a little oil, butter and garlic.
  3. Add broad beans at the end.
  4. Serve the lamb on the artichokes and broad beans with beetroot puree, the fried brains and a little jus and herbs.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/

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How to not get a job…

imagesI am currently on the hunt for a Sous chef. Again. The last one did not survive unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t matter how nice a guy you are, if you are not up to scratch then you’re not up to scratch, personal feelings can’t enter into business decisions in the kitchen. This is probably why there are so many successful arseholes out there, because luckily for them they can cook! So I am sieving through a pile of CV’s that have been sent to me and would like to share some tips from the years of applying for jobs (successfully and several unsuccessfully) and also the countless CV’s I have read and interviews I have conducted.

Top 10 CV, Cover Letter and Interview tips for chefs

1)      Keep it simple

Cover letters I do not really read unless I am interested in their CV. Almost all job applications are done online via email these days so a simple 3 or 4 line statement briefly outlining your relevant experience for the job you are applying for. Don’t use multiple colours or bizarre goofy fonts. These just make you look unprofessional. Are you applying for a job as a kick arse professional chef or for a job at a day care centre? If everyone else is like me then they do not have time to read through a multitude of CV’s in great detail. Keep it relevant, briefly outline your skills, qualifications and experience in chronological order starting with the most recent and work backwards. Nobody needs to have a half page detailing your duties when a commis II in cold kitchen in 1989. Also unless you are applying for your first job then nobody gives a fuck what you did at high school/primary school etc.

2)      Do your research

Address the cover letter to the person you are sending your CV to. So many times my name has been in the job posting yet people still address their cover letters to “dear sir/madam”. This shows that they haven’t bothered to read the ad properly or have just copied/pasted, which is fine but you should personalize to each new job application. Check out the place’s website, ask some people what it’s like, why would you want to apply for a job if you don’t even know what the position or property is? It could be a shit hole!

3)      Do not kiss arse.

Here is an excerpt from a BAD cover letter:

“DEAR.Sir / Madam
Good to meet you. I galddnes my heart to be able to reach an icon lile you. I currently seek for kind of better chef job specially in hotels/ restaurants/ cruise line/pravite chef.
I will be so greatful for your kind assistance and connection made on my behalf to make my dreams and aspiration come through.”

How can it bring galddnes to your heart to send me your CV if you know so little about me that you are not sure if I am a man or a woman? Maybe he’s seen my photo and things I am trans-gender? (mental note: review all profile pics) I appreciate you trying to cast the net wide however I am not advertising for a cruise line or a pravite chef so why mention this? Maybe pravite chef is supposed to say depraved chef? Maybe I’ll take a look at his CV after all…

4)      Spell check!

I cannot stress this enough. One of the funniest mistakes I often see in a CV is something like:

“Englash skills: reeding and writting – both excrelment” = CV straight into the bin.

5)      Make sure you actually attach your CV

How can someone look at your CV if you have forgotten to attach it? Make sure that if there are any specific requirements that the advertiser has asked for you have or if something is borderline (i.e. they have requested a minimum 5yrs experience but you have only 4) then maybe the cover letter is a good place to address this. Make sure your CV is in a standard format such as .doc or .pdf file. Txt files on notepad look like shit and if the format is a bizarre one that isn’t common they probably won’t be able to open it. Having to chase people up to try and give them a job sucks and most people won’t bother

So, you’ve made it to the interview…

6)      Be prepared

If you do happen to get an interview then the best thing you can do is be prepared. Think about why you want the job, why you would be good at it, why they should hire you and what relevant skills and experience you can bring to the position. A good reason for applying for a job is not that “it is close to my house”… fuck me that’s inspirational.

7)      Dress appropriately.

One prospective candidate for a Sous chef position turned up to his interview in scruffy jeans, a hoody, hadn’t shaved or possibly showered and hadn’t even bothered to finish his can of coke before he came through the door. Is this the person I wish to hire in a senior position of responsibility? I never did talk to him to find out. First impressions are so so important; make sure you make a good one!

8)      Turn up on time.

If for some bizarre reason you are going to be late then always make sure you phone ahead to let them know. If you can’t turn up to an interview before you’re employed then what will it be like in 6 months of being employed?

9)      Relax.

I know job interviews can be stressful but being calm, cool and collected give a much better indication of how you will handle your duties than if you are sweating and nervous. Of course make sure you don’t over-do it and come off as too cocky! It will help you relax if you follow point number 6.

10)   Take it like a man.

Someone once said to me “you’re not a man til you’ve had a man”. This is not the case with interviews. You can usually get a pretty good feeling how an interview has gone by the end and whether you’ve tanked, you’ve aced it or it’s 50/50. If you feel things have gone well then there is nothing wrong with sending a quick email saying “thank you for taking the time to interview me, I enjoyed meeting you and am excited about the position. If you have any further questions for me or wish for me to come in for a trial please feel free to contact me.” If you haven’t heard back in 3-4 weeks you can safely assume that they have probably gone with someone else. Harassing people will not help you get the job, this only makes you look desperate/crazy and may affect any future jobs with the same company. I have been unsuccessful for one position but then contacted again later by the same employer when another one opened up that they thought I would be suited to, so it always pays never to burn your bridges.

Good luck and go hard or go home!

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The Nasty Bits

imagesI was reading an interview with a chef recently who when asked for his favorite quote replied “you can’t polish a turd”. Despite bringing to mind the Coogee Bay Hotel saga (go on, Google it) in my opinion he’s right. And wrong… It’s near impossible to take something that is bad quality and make it into something fine dining but what is the definition of a ‘shit’ ingredient? Too many people equate high quality with the choice cuts, the expensive parts; so much of the definition of what is good and bad is dependent on what is in fashion at the time. What makes a fillet for example ‘better’ than a trotter or the tail, because it’s fast or easy? If you go back a while lamb shanks were discarded or animal food, in the 90’s lamb shanks were on everyone’s menu. The same can be said about oxtail and pork belly, although some things like tripe have never come into the mainstream of what is cool. I think there has been a fascination towards the ‘nasty bits’ as Anthony Bourdain has put it; that which was made edible through invention born of necessity many years ago has become somewhat desirable. Take for example the popularity of St. Johns and the nose to tail books.

Cooking is all about transformation. In its simplest form it is the transformation of something inedible to edible through the direct application of heat. When our ancestors discovered fire and the most rudimentary forms of cooking it’s what allowed us to have a high protein diet and made our brains grow bigger (so I’m lead to believe). Anyone can take a piece of beautifully marbled prime beef fillet and with the most basic of instruction produce something sellable. Taking something that most people would normally throw away and turning it into something delicious that people would pay a premium for is where the true skill lies (and also helps the bank balance). A terrine made of all the odds and ends that normally end up in the bin can be a thing of beauty. Where is the skill in taking something already great and turning it into something that is equally great. If you have the most amazing ingredients then why bother transforming them at all? A beautiful piece of freshly caught Tuna or Salmon, all you need to do is slice it and put it on a plate, is it really any better after you’ve seared the edges? That comes down to someone’s personal taste but if you cook it to well done surely it is ruined.

Using “bad” ingredients is good for the world. I hate to think how much food is put into the bin every single day. If anyone thinks that wastage doesn’t matter they should read the chapter in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry entitled “the importance of rabbits”. I read that and couldn’t agree more. I think people are blasé about throwing food in the bin because it has become all too easy, there’s no work in making food anymore. I know of someone who was a “vegetarian” but would eat meat if it was ground into mince but refused to touch it without gloves, but was then quite happy to ingest it. No doubt well done and with an abundance of processed tomato sauce. How did we become so disassociated with where our food comes from?

Food is what comes out of the box and into the microwave, chicken is what you get skinless and boneless and vacuum packed in the poultry section of the supermarket. I wonder would you think twice throwing away that drumstick if you had to grow the chicken, feed it for months, pluck it and had to have looked it in the eye as you brought down the axe…? But that’s the reality, animals need to die in order for us to have the pleasure of eating them and the very least we can do is have the respect to make sure we use every part. And in today’s economic climate with people concerned about increasing costs and decreased revenue as a chef it also makes economic sense.

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