Martijn Kajuiter isn’t probably a widely recognised name, unless you are on Twitter where he has a presence, usually talking about the abundance of produce he is going to source or that which he has coming through the back door of his kitchen. But after achieving a Michelin star this year at Cliff House, his is now starting to be picked up on the foodies radar. Before working at Cliff House, Mr Kajuiter worked at the renovated Restaurant Kwekerj de Kas in his native Netherlands.
On the 1st of February 2011 he will have his first cookbook published in the UK, simply called “Cliff House Hotel: The Cookbook“. It has been edited by one of Ireland’s top restaurant critics, Mr Tom Doorley. If the illustrations that we were provided with are anything to by, it really will be something special.
So without further ado, along with some stunning illustrations are Martijn Kajuiter’s ‘Words of Advice’.
1. What would be your best piece of advice for a fresh face school leaver who is obsessed with ‘Food Porn’ looking to get into the industry?
I would say that for the first few years he or she needs to get the widest experience possible, learn the basics well –master the classic kitchen and work your way up slowly in several different kitchens on different levels. Change workplace every year and try to go to a place that attracts them personally. What is important for every youngster is that they create their own identity, work with chefs who inspire and are genuine but be careful not to become a clone of them.
Also don’t be persuaded to make a career to quickly as it is of course very attractive to become Sous or head chef and have a great pay and a shot for fame in the early stages. But your culinary “repertoire and vocabulary” needs to grow, and I strongly believe that that is the key foundation for a strong career in our industry, the food porn bit comes later.
2. What qualities are you looking for in your more junior chefs when recruiting new staff?
There are a few key qualities I am looking for:
1. Persons who are motivated and intelligently enthusiastic.
2. Independent opinion, creative and a critical view on cooking.
3. Good self knowledge on his or her strong and weak abilities.
4. Someone who always wants to win and does not have a compromise on standards.
5. Willingness to work hard and go for that bit extra to get it done.
It may sound a bit much for a junior member of staff, but if you see how independent and with how much confidence they already manage their own lives. They know what they want out of their future careers it is just normal to set a few mature guidelines.
3. Would you recommend that staff do stages & how do people get to do a stage with you?
I insist on doing stages, but they have to take the initiative. I think it gives a good insight in other peoples work methods, approaches and philosophy, it is the perfect way to expand your view and understanding of other colleagues and as a bonus you can- without any real responsibilities and pressure absorb a lot of useful information to improve your skills and chef identity.
Also it is a great way to maybe plan the following step in your career.
It is a pity that we don’t get a lot of chefs on stages as we are quite remote, but we always welcome the ones who do come and appreciate their effort to travel and work with us. We try to give them a wide impression of our kitchen and hope they will be ambassadors of our place when they leave. If people want to do stage with me –just write an email or give me a phone call, we then work out the dates and of course accommodation and we just do it!
4. In light of the recent death of a young chef through excessive hours (on average 100+ per week, for multiple weeks – See our post), does the industry need to change & what changes have you made to reflect this in your own kitchens?
I never worked a 100 hours plus in a work week, nor did any member of my kitchen. We are not living in the medieval times any more. I can’t ignore that what we consider as normal hours are for others abnormal ones.
I believe that there needs to be a balance, yes we do work hard and long hours but 2 days off is almost written in stone. We need to give people their rest, space to breath and relax, as a refreshed member of staff is more productive, creative, more resistant to pressure and is able to keep quality up.
Also if you burn people out they will not last very long. I choose to build a team for the long term , this increases the efficiency and decreases the time needed to get our daily routine done.
5. Do you think that the media (in particular television) have raised the profile of the industry in a positive way?
There a lot of positives, it is fantastic how much attention and interest there is for our profession. I see it as a huge compliment that we are getting so much media attention.
Being a Chef is now really recognised and we pick the sweet fruits of it daily, as it attracts people to our trade, more willingness to try more new things and more importantly they visit our restaurants.
The amount of knowledge and information that is spread throughout magazines, TV shows and other real life kitchen events is unbelievable, and it raised the awareness of our guests in terms of product knowledge, creativity and quality of cooking.
So it looks like everyone is cooking now of these days and with that everyone is becoming a critic or educated foodie. The only problem I have with it is that not everyone can translate that information and apply the gained knowledge at the level you see shown or presented.
But that is just minor in the light of all the positives it brings to us.
As ever The Chef Hermes blog would like to thank Mr Martijn Kajuiter for sharing his thoughts & images with our readers. Should you wish to get in touch with him for a stage or an employment opportunity he can be found at the following address:
Republic of Ireland.
Phone: +353 (0)24 87800