With the blog rapidly approaching it’s first birthday we’ve had a bit of a rethink as to how we structure the posts and their content. First up for review was the chef’s ‘5Questions’. In the past they have come from chefs who are predominantly Michelin starred. There have been exceptions to the rule Aiden Byrne, Andrew Turner, Jason Atherton & Nathan Outlaw (at the time, now has 2 stars). They were approached because it was the opinion that they could offer a worthwhile contribution to the readers. Now, we have gone beyond Michelin stars to a chef who doesn’t believe in accolade chasing and after his appearance on the BBC’s Great British Menu last year, he has certainly had people talking about him.
Having had previous employers such as Heston Blumenthal & Alistair Little on his CV, Johnnie Mountain opened his first restaurant called Mosaica @ the Factory in 2000 where food writer Charles Campion wrote
It’s a pretty tall order given the competition, but even among chefs, Johnnie Mountain could be considered seriously eccentric
He later went on to sell Mosaica and open The English Pig in September 2010. He probably first came to the attention of the wider public’s attention on his debut on Great British Menu. Representing the North West region, along with Lisa Allen (Northcote Manor) & Aiden Byrne, he instantly made an impact. Here’s the promo from his first appearance:
And so we wait with baited breathe for his appearance this year, unfortunately there won’t be a repeat of the fireworks with Mr Byrne as he’s not taking part.
That said it is never a dull moment when he’s around. Johnny was stabbed in early December and this would have affected people in many ways, Mr Mountain resorted to Twitter to find his attackers;
I have been robbed and stabbed this morning. If I find the missing assailant, I will hurt him. Pls retweet. This is NOT a joke!!!
It later transpired that it was the brother of the new owner of Mosaica, again Johnnie tweeted to his followers;
I collected 50k from the bank this morning and Steve goodes brother decided to rob/stab me! I’m alright, they are in custody
Even in the emails we exchanged with Mr Mountain, we knew it was going to be a special post. With a chef who clearly isn’t worried what guides think of him, we bring you Johnnie Mountain’s no holds barred ‘5Questions‘.
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?
Look to work directly into a great Gastro/Foodie/Pub/Restaurant at least 5-6 days a week, to learn the physical and some mental difficulties, one day
a week as ‘estage’ in a michelin star/fine dining establishment. Keeping the ‘love’ in a good gastro place and learning the technicalities/drama’s at the
2. What qualities are you looking for in your more junior chefs when recruiting new staff?
When we recruit Junior members, all I am interested in is there attitude to work, that covers a multitiude of sins. Most of the younger kids have ‘hang-ups’, drugs, alcohol, gambling….you know the rest. If you find the young person with a great positive mental attitude, then everything else can
be taught. We have often taken on highly skilled (and highly strung) individuals who show moments of brilliance, that then don’t show to work the day after payday!!
3. Would you recommend that staff do stages & how do people get to do a stage with you?
‘Stage’ in kitchens is the most important of all things, almost like wanting to be a musician, but not knowing which instrument to play!! I run a very small (physically also) kitchen right now and it is not ‘stage’ friendly although I am always willing to look at talking to young professionals as I have a few projects ‘up my sleeve’
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?
Striving for perfection often leads to trouble, I am sad to hear of the death of yet another chef, the industry is a hard industry and for those ‘Star Chaser’s’ they will only make it harder. After working for some of the best chef’s in the UK, I decided to keep a much simpler life, this is not taking the easy way out, but I am not interested in AA, Michelin or
GFG….you will end up working for them!!! That’s not my intention, I therefore ask my chef’s to work only 40-45hrs a week, they may be paid a little less than other places, but their quality of life is ten-fold…….it’s all about balance.
5. Do you think that the media (in particular television) have raised the profile of the industry in a positive way?
Media, mainly television is a very dangerous tool, I have been involved in the TV Chef World for a reasonable length of time now and the main reason you have not seen much of me is I don’t wish to appear on ‘poor quality’ programming, daytime TV is a nightmare. It starts from the Channel/Broadcaster, advertising during the day is poor, therefore income for the Channel is poor, therefore budget of making/commissioning programmes is poor…..like a vicious circle, Saturday AM is a captured market, the popularity of Saturday Kitchen is mainly due to the ‘formatting’ (‘magazine’ they call it) No slot will last for more than 8-10mins, so the viewer, if bored (and hungover) knows that something else is about to come up and therfore doesn’t switch to another channel.
Because of the exposure we will have more ‘wannabe’s’, hence my Twitter name (Johnnie’s former twitter name was @JohnnieWannabe), a sort of self-humiliation, the problem is there are sooooo many people out there on TV giving false information or not enough information about cooking, if more kids or influenced however by this, then it can only be good for our industry as long as we sort out the ‘wheat from the chaf’…..or should it be ‘chav’s’
As ever The Chef Hermes blog would like to thank Johnnie Mountain for his participation in the ‘5Questions‘. Should you wish to contact Mr Mountain about possible employment opportunities, he can be found at his restaurant:
The English Pig
Tel: 020 7222 2211 / 020 7222 3336
We also highly recommend following Johnnie on Twitter.