Professional Work And Work Experience

These are synopses of my past postings on my professional employment since graduating and my work experience while still at college. Click on the links for the posts.

I wasn't able to write a great deal about my last employment at Hotel Ferrero, as it was a condition of contract at this exclusive and very special place that employees don't publish or broadcast on day-to-day matters. Although I enjoy blogging, I'm first and foremost a developing chef rather than a wannabe writer, so I made sure that I strictly respected the wishes of my employers and stuck firmly to the rules.

May 12, 2010Taking A BreakI've been working non-stop at Viajante for several months now and the experience of being part of the startup team at a restaurant that has already attracted some of the world's top chefs has been one that I wouldn't have missed for the world. But it's also well over six years of professional training now in both the UK and Spain and I'm ready for a break. There are some things in life more important than my career and I want to spend the immediate future restoring the balance between my professional life and my personal one. I'm planning to do something completely different for a few months. But don't worry. I'll be back.
April 25, 2010Open For BusinessAt last we are open. It's been a long and tiring journey from the doors first opening to the new team to meet eachother and start to run a kitchen, through to being ready to open the doors to a paying public. For the past six weeks we've been on soft openings, with invited guests helping us to iron out the problems before opening day. I've been pleased to see some long-standing food blogger friends here during that period, and my dad.
March 14, 2010Now, Voyager!I've said nothing about work for the past few weeks, but during that period I've been spending time preparing for my new role in London. Now that I've signed my contract, I can reveal that I've joined Nuno Mendes (formerly of Bacchus and The Loft) and his team in the launch of Viajante - a fine dining venture in the luxury hotel on the site of the former Bethnal Green Town Hall. We open officially on 15th April and I shall be chef de partie of the cold section. It's the most exciting gastronomic development in the East End of London for years.
February 01, 2010Adiós España... Por AhoraLast Friday I flew back to the UK, to seek employment back in my home country. The past 28 months have been a totally amazing experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. As a young chef starting out in 2007, there was nowhere in the world to equal Spain as a training ground and I learnt so much there. But I'm ready now to move on to the next stage of my life and my professional career. Britain - it's good to be home.
January 17, 2010Job Wanted - Chef De Partie in Progressive Fine Dining RestaurantI've submitted applications to almost every top-level fine dining restaurant in the country and still no luck. The hospitality industry in Spain remains in crisis and it's very hard to find work right now. But now I've reached a certain level, I desperately don't want to go backwards. I know I can run a section in a kitchen turning out Michelin 2* food and I want to keep doing that, consolidate and improve. What I don't need is to travel over 1,000 miles to interview for a job that turns out not to exist. And then to be dumped on the street with no money.
December 13, 2009A Pastry Chef Comes To Hotel FerreroBack in October, the Pastry Chef from one of Auckland's best restaurants travelled from New Zealand to Spain on a journey of gastronomic discovery. Determined to advance his understanding of European cooking, Brian Campbell visited many of the country's greatest restaurants, ate the food, chatted to the chefs, took photos and wrote it all up. Luckily, Ferrero was one of those destinations. Click on the link to discover what he thought of the place.
November 26, 2009Three Years, Three Michelin StarsYesterday the Michelin awards for Spain & Portugal were announced and we were all disappointed that Restaurante Ferrero was not honoured with its first star. The guys worked so hard and really deserved it. But it wasn't all bad news for me, because the restaurant where I spent the early months of the year, Lasarte, was promoted from 1* to 2* status. And, like everyone in the business, I was delighted to see Joan Roca win his third star at El Celler de Can Roca.
November 22, 2009Moving OnIt's seven months since I started work at Restaurante Ferrero and it's been a wonderful learning experience. Being given an opportunity to run the desserts section of a restaurant turning out food commonly agreed to be of Michelin 2* standard has been an honour and has equipped me well for my future career. But all things come to an end and this is time for me to move on. Last week the hotel was honoured by Relais & Châteaux. I'm hoping that my time at Ferrero will be honoured by another organisation next week.
November 20, 2009Relais & ChâteauxRelais & Châteaux is a global association of outstanding hotel and restaurant establishments with a truly unique character. Very few make it into the exclusive group of Relais & Châteaux. In 2009 there were just 475 members in 55 countries. I'm delighted to discover this week that not only has my current employer been admitted to the club but so also has Restaurante Eleven in Lisbon - the first place I ever applied to for work outside of the UK.
September 09, 2009Teamwork Is EverythingHere's a little piece about something that didn't happen here at the restaurant in which I'm employed. Instead, it happened not far away in the city of València to a team of professionals, as they carried out their own equivalent of plating up. You just can't help feeling for them.
July 20, 2009Monsieur Le PâtissierIt gives me enormous pleasure to break my recent silence by announcing that I have been contracted to the post of Pastry Chef at Restaurante Ferrero, where I'm now in charge of the desserts section after a two-month training period. It's an area of the work in a professional kitchen that I'd neglected a bit since college days, but I'm now back in the swing of it and loving every minute. I hope my pastry lecturers back at Westminster Kingsway College don't suffer any accidents due to the surprise at reading this news.
July 06, 2009So You Thought It Was Easy, Eh?Maybe I've made a mistake posting this here, rather than under Celebrity Chefs & TV Cooking where it obviously belongs. But this is a TV programme that I've highlighted not for its entertainment content, but because it shows you something of what it's like to work in a Michelin-starred kitchen. OK, I've had to point out some of the less obvious issues that separate the TV show from reality. But I can't film the goings-on in the kitchens I work in - and this at least will give you some kind of feel for the food and the difficulties of preparing it.
May 24, 2009Part Of The TeamI couldn't write about what was happening here at Ferrero before because things were changing so rapidly. I found myself as Acting Chef de Partie for Starters within 48 hours of arriving. But less than two weeks after that I was surprised and delighted to be offered a more challenging role as part of the kitchen team. Click on the link to find out what job I'm now in training to take over in a couple of months. It will surprise you.
May 19, 2009The Cutting EdgeI've acquired a cut-throat razor and a pair of fine tweezers. Taking more care of my personal hygiene? Slaughtering songbirds and plucking their feathers? Neither of the above. These are for the really delicate tasks in the kitchen. The razor for cutting edible flower petals and preparing chives and the tweezers for manipulating juliennes of pepper skin. Poncey? Moi?
April 21, 2009Climbing The MountainsIt's Sod's Law. You get no response to your job applications for weeks on end... and then three job offers come along together. Each one very attractive and very different. A contract offer from Lasarte which I left a few weeks ago. An offer of work in a Michelin-starred Basque restaurant turning out highly creative dishes. And a chance to join the team in a brand new, highly professional kitchen producing amazing ingredient-led food. I chose the latter. The chance to work with Paco Morales - Spain's Chef of the Year 2009 - was not an opportunity I could possibly turn down. I start in May.
March 08, 2009Gissa JobNo - I haven't been fired from Lasarte. Quite the opposite. I've almost completed a second one-month stage and I've been doing really well. But, as with most restaurants in Barcelona, Lasarte can't offer me or anyone else a contract right now. The economic crisis here is even worse than back home in Britain and it's hitting the restaurant sector particularly badly. I need income, so I've been forced to look for agency work while trying to find something more long-term.
January 12, 2009All Tooled Up And Ready For ActionOK - so it's a week and a day later than expected, but tomorrow I start work on a stage at Restaurant Lasarte at the Hotel Condes de Barcelona on the Passeig de Gràcia. And I can't wait to get back into action after my winter break. Only when I got all my knives out for cleaning and sharpening did I realise that my bedroom looked a bit like the scene of a police weapons amnesty. The difference, however, is that most of mine are a lot sharper.
December 08, 2008Where Next?Since I left Comerç, I've been having problem after problem sorting out a new job. In one case I needed broader experience, somewhere else just didn't suit my style of cooking and when I did eventually find the right place, they lost my application. But it's all sorted now (I hope). To find out where I start work on Monday 5th January 2009, click on the link.
November 04, 2008Farewell Comerç 24In every one of life's ventures there comes a time to move on - and for me the time has come to reach out and stretch my culinary legs after a truly wonderful year at Comerç 24. Click on the link to read about my amazing journey, what I learnt in my first real professional job and how, looking at myself now, I'm so different from the boyish stagière who first arrived in Barcelona back in September 2007.
October 18, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass #6: Maki De Aguacate Y BogavanteIn my latest episode of Through the Cooking-Glass, I feature another video clio from internet videoblog Ver y Cocina. This time, Executive Chef Abellan demonstrates how to make our Grand Festival tasting menu dish Maki de aguacate y bogavante (Avocado and lobster maki) - one of the favourite dishes of our customers at Comerç 24. Once again, the mis en place for this dish was prepared by my fair hands.
October 18, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass #5: Sopa De Fideos (Redux)After a year working at Comerç 24, I've only just discovered that Executive Chef Carles Abellan has posted some clips on internet videoblog Ver y Cocina (video clips hosted on YouTube), demonstrating some of his signature dishes. I've translated the recipes and reproduced the clips courtesy of Ver y Cocina. Here's the first one - our classic Sopa De Fideos Vegetales.
July 21, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass #4: Rabo De Toro Y Espuma De Coliflor Con TrufaThere are many descriptions that can be applied to the dishes we serve at C24, but comfort food is rarely one of them. But here we are, with a dish for which the phrase is highly appropriate. Mind you, that doesn't mean it's just slapped into a bowl. It still takes a lot of very careful preparation and execution to make this particular comfort food - oxtail with cauliflower foam & truffle.
June 10, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass #3: Lobster And Avocado MakiThe latest in my series turning the spotlight onto the food at C24 focuses on one of my favourite dishes - lobster and avocado maki. In a twist on the classic Japanese makizushi, we use the avocado on the outside rather than as a filling and substitute finest lobster for the traditional fish. It's complicated to prepare, but the effort is well worth it as the dish is one of our most popular.
June 05, 2008Messages From The Other SideIn recent weeks I've booked quite a few tables for visitors to Comerç 24 who have heard about the restaurant through the blog, or through personal contact with me. In writing up comments I've received from some of these visitors it occurred to me to search out comments on the internet and publish these as well. It makes interesting and very pleasing reading.
May 21, 2008The View From Here Is AmazingOne day last May I wrote a blog post about hill climbing. That post was about the lessons my mum taught me in how to approach the challenges that lay ahead for me as I contemplated my final year college exams and my first professional job. Yesterday, exactly a year to the day after that blog post, I was promoted to chef de partie, responsible for running an entire kitchen section in a Michelin-starred Catalan restaurant. It's still a long way to the top of the mountain, but I've conquered the foothills. I'm really feeling very proud.
May 17, 2008Battle ScarsI knew there was a reason why professional chefs don't make concert pianists. Cuts, slices, burns and blisters are just part of the territory when you work with sharp knives and hot liquids all day. Even when your employers are very safety-conscious and have a good record of health & safety at work. In this Flickr display you can see a few of the battle wounds I've picked up. I won in the end, though. The food got chopped and the water boiled.
May 05, 2008The Head ChefBefore coming to work at Comerç 24, my experience of Head Chefs was limited to a fews days here, a couple of weeks there. So, not surprisingly, I had no idea what a vast range of functions this person performs in the course of a day's work. In this post I've only covered a few of the skillsets that a good Head Chef needs in order to run a successful kitchen. Everything you need to be successful in your personal life - if only a Head Chef had enough spare time to have one!
April 27, 2008All In A Day's WorkLike any top restaurant, Comerç 24 attracts its fair share of celebrity diners. By and large I pay no attention to famous faces who walk into the restaurant - I'm far too busy in the kitchen and, in any case, it's not really my thing. But this customer the other day certainly caught my attention. Not because he's a celebrity, but because his restaurant started the culinary revolution two decades ago that inspired me to become a chef and brought me to Catalunya. To cook for Albert Adrià was both an honour and a pleasure.
April 20, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass #2: Lluçet Al Pil-Pil'Pil-Pil' is about as Basque as cooking can get, although in the Basque country the dish would probably be made with cod, whereas we use the more traditionally Galician hake. Pil-Pil describes the cooking process in which gelatin is slowly extracted from the fish skin and is also the name given to the resulting sauce. Served with apple and chive - a great combination that contrasts beautifully in flavour and texture.
April 03, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass #1: Sopa De Fideos VegetalesIn the first of my new series Through The Cooking-Glass, I present Sopa de Fideos Vegetales, or Vegetable Noodle Soup. You probably won't be surprised to discover that this is not a soup of vegetables and wheat or rice noodles. It's a mixture of seven different ingredients julienned into noodles, and as for the soup itself...
March 31, 2008Through The Cooking-Glass (And What You'll Find There)It's the food blogger's dilemma. As an amateur you can write up what you are doing, stopping to take photos as you go, albeit at some risk to your final result. But as a professional you can't write notes or take snaps - the pressure of the pro kitchen simply doesn't allow it. Now I've built up more experience, this new series will reveal some of the dishes we serve here at Comerç 24, the content and qualities of the dish and the process that delivers it to the table. The photo - me behind the cooking-glass - was taken by a customer.
March 10, 2008'Save For Well-Done'At risk of being permanently excluded from the Chefs' Magical Circle, I'm going to give away one of the profession's most closely guarded secrets. It's what we bake using the corpses of customers who order their steaks "well-done", after we've plunged them through the trap-door and down into the cellars. To discover the grisly truth (or should that be the gristly truth?), read on...
January 06, 2008The Chef WaltzIt may sound strange, especially to those who are not hospitality professionals, but the Chef Waltz is how a professional kitchen operates. Not the actual cooking itself - but the process by which everybody working in the kitchen interacts to generate the final product on the plate at the pass. I've been reading Anthony Bourdain recently, and he had it summed up perfectly. To learn more about "the zone" and waltzing for two, three or even four... read on.
December 31, 2007Celebrating New Year On Top Of A FoothillWhen you start a three-month training stage it seems like such a long time. But three months simply flew past. Not long enough for me even to begin to learn what this place can teach me. So it's a good job that I'll have a bit longer. I've been asked to stay on a one-year paid contract... and I didn't hesitate to say yes. I'm Aidan Brooks, Professional Trainee Chef.
November 22, 2007The Fat Man ComethWhen the rumour started to circulate on Tuesday, we were very excited. For a restaurant with such an unfussy and informal style of eating to be awarded a gastronomic accolade would have been unthinkable a few years ago. But yesterday the photographer arrived and this morning the Michelin Guide to Spain & Portugal is officially published. And we've been awarded our first star! Everyone here is over the moon. If anyone deserves an award it's the team at C24. Just to be a tiny part of what's going on here is an amazing experience.
November 05, 2007Working With FoodiesOne thing that distinguishes the chefs here at Comerç 24 from virtually everywhere else I've worked is their attitude to food. That may sound daft but believe me, in most restaurants when service is over everyone heads for the door. And you'd be amazed how many chefs prepare gourmet food for their customers and then eat a burger and fries on the way home. But not here. This is a team of real foodies. We eat great food that we prepare for ourselves during the day and we discuss food while relaxing after work.
October 15, 2007Not The Easiest Of WeeksMy second week at Comerç 24 has been very difficult due to my having gone down with a really bad cold that I've not been able to shake off all week. And I compounded matters when, feeling better on Saturday night, I went out clubbing - only to end up spending most of my time off in bed! But I'm settling in and have started food shopping in preparation for some good home cooking soon.
October 08, 2007In At The Deep EndThe past week has been the most amazing experience of my culinary career. Thrown right in at the deep end, I found myself within minutes of my arrival at Comerç 24 on day 1 shucking oysters, preparing juliennes of asparagus, aerating coconut foam and being entrusted to plate up multiple dishes for lunch service. Since then it's been go, go, go in the most disciplined and professional kitchen I've ever seen. I'm just loving it. I can't wait to get back tomorrow. But I really need these two days off. After week 1, I'm well and truly knackered!
October 01, 2007You Can Take The Boy Out Of England...So, here I am in one of Europe's greatest cities. The city of Hercules and Hannibal, Antoni Gaudí and Joan Miró. A city of culture and great food. The city of Ferran Adrià. Having arrived without any accommodation, I've spent three nights in a hostal on La Rambla. But I've now managed to find a flatshare in the Barri Xinés (Chinatown) and I'm settled in, ready to start work tomorrow morning at 10.30 in Comerç 24. Wow! I'm really looking forward to this!
September 28, 2007See You Soon!The time has come for me to get ready for my adventure. I've equipped myself with a WIFI-enabled laptop and a new compact digital camera and I'm ready to go. My next post will be from Barcelona!
September 09, 2007In Pursuit Of My DreamIt's taken a lot of thinking and organising, but at last I can announce that I will be moving to the wonderful city of Barcelona in three weeks' time and taking up the amazing offer of a three-month stage at Comerç 24. This restaurant is the home of Carles Abellan, described by Ferran Adrià as "the best chef I ever trained". A kitchen producing food that is inspirational, thought-provoking, intriguing and evocative and that I want to be a part of.
July 18, 2007Ups And DownsNobody with even 1% visual capacity could fail to be impressed by the Hotel Mas Passamaner, a stunning building designed by modernist Catalan architect Joan Doménech i Montaner. I was also impressed by the standard of food produced in La Gigantea restaurant, which exceeded expectations based on the menu. Unfortunately, however, some organisational changes shortly before I arrived mean it is now unlikely that I will take up a post there. But my visit revived my love for Catalunya and I would really like to work in this great part of the world.
July 11, 2007Three Days, Two Birds And Some CookingThis is the most important week of my chef life so far. On Monday I was thrilled to learn that I had passed my exams, earning a Professional Chef Diploma with Merit. This afternoon I am flying from Stansted to Barcelona Reus airport and travelling from there to La Selva del Camp near Tarragona to pay my first visit to the Hotel Mas Passamaner, home of the Restaurante La Gigantea. This is my introduction to the kitchens before I return permanently later in the year.
June 04, 2007My First Professional JobI am delighted to have been invited to join the team at Restaurante Gigantea in Tarragona as a commis chef. La Gigantea is the latest venture by Joachim Koerper, formerly of the Michelin 2* Girasol in Valencia and one of the world's most respected exponents of Mediterranean cuisine. The team at La Gigantea aims to develop this restaurant into one of the finest gourmet dining establishments in Catalunya. Not only is this location at the centre of modern world gastronomy, it is also less than an hour from Barcelona - one of my favourite cities in Europe.
May 20, 2007Mountains And FoothillsI'm about to set off on a journey and I'm well prepared for it. My mum was once a keen hill walker. She explained to her children the importance of preparation and pacing and how reaching the summit of a mountain involves a succession of stages, each with its own peak. My journey starts at the foothills of my mountain and will be a long climb. I hope to start soon, with my first professional job as a commis chef. I may not be able to blog as frequently as in the past, but the name of my blog won't be changing. I'm still a trainee.
December 09, 2006Farewell BoxwoodIt only seems like yesterday that I rolled up at 7.45 a.m. at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge to begin my work experience placement at Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café. Five weeks of getting up at 6 o'clock every morning, crossing London from the inner East End to the outer West End, eight hours of work in the kitchens followed by the long schlepp back home. And now it's all over.
November 18, 2006Work Experience Gets More InterestingI've completed week 1 of my work experience at Boxwood Café and things have been getting more challenging recently. I spent the majority of my second week at Boxwood on the pastry section. I'm certainly not over-enthusiastic when it comes to patisserie, but one thing I can say in its defence is that it can be interesting.
November 12, 2006One Week In BoxwoodI've completed the first of five weeks' work experience at Boxwood Café in Knightsbridge, Executive Head Chef Stuart Gillies. For the most part I was asked to carry out more menial tasks. But after a day or two of getting used to the run of things I was entrusted to do some more interesting tasks such as making sorbet and cheesecake mixes, cubing fudge for petits fours and making dressings.
October 31, 2006Work Experience BeckonsFor my third-year work experience placement starting next Monday I'll be working for five weeks at Boxwood Café, the most relaxed and informal of Gordon Ramsay's nine London restaurants, in the Berkeley Hotel Knightsbridge. Boxwood Café isn't somewhere I would see myself working in the future, but it's just the place I need right now and I'm determined to do my very best and learn everything I can.
August 26, 2006Two Days That Shocked My WorldI spent yesterday working in Zuma, a Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge. I loved every minute of my one-day "trial shift"and if I get a chance I will certainly return. I had a very different experience earlier in the month. I was taken on for paid work in the West End kitchens of a Master Chef who consistently ranks in the world's top 20 and who has been honoured with several Michelin stars. It was an exciting proposition, but I quit after my first day.
August 20, 2006Responses To My Job Appeal
Many thanks to the restauranters and chefs who responded to my appeal for a temporary job for the remainder of the summer holiday. After posting on this site and sending out some emails I have taken up a very exciting offer for a trial later this week at a Knightsbridge restaurant and I'll let you know how it goes. Once again, many thanks.
August 05, 2006Interim Chef, Temporary Chef, Holiday ChefNow I've completed my period of work experience at Providores it's time to look for paid work for the remainder of the summer. I'm not expecting to be offered Head Chef at Claridge's, but at the other extreme I don't want to waste my time working in a fast-food outlet. So, if there's someone out there with a buzzing, adventurous restaurant who needs some help this summer while regular employees are on holiday then I'm your man.