Words of Advice ~ Toby Stuart
Although not an instantly recognisable name, Toby Stuart is the Head Chef at Roux @ Parliment Square, which is part the burgeoning empire of Michel Roux Jnr. Having also worked for the former 2* legend Richard Neat in his French adventure, Mr Stuart has an impressive CV. Starting with a high standard in his school holidays at Aubergine with Gordon Ramsay and then into full time employement at Cliveden, Orrery (where he first worked for the Galvin Brothers) and in 2001 to Neat in Cannes. After working with Richard Neat, which Mr Stuart describes as;
an extremely driven / demanding environment
He went on adding valued Michelin star kitchen experience to his expanding CV. Maison Trois Gros, Can Fabes, The Square all feature before adding 2 stints each at L’Escargot & Auberge du Lac and finally ending back with the Galvin siblings at Galvin at the Windows prior to Roux at Parliament Square.
Just like one of his previous employers, this is a lengthy ‘5Questions‘. So sit back & enjoy the read from Toby Stuart.
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?
Realising your goal/dream is never easy. This is one of the hardest professions there is. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding. Remember that in the beginning it will be incredibly hard to adjust, especially when your friends will be ‘out and about’ town etc – you will be working. Stay focused, be respectful and remember that you will have to earn respect from your peers. Not everything needs to be explained – sometimes a simple YES Chef or NO Chef is more than adequet.
Keep your eyes/mind open. Spend your hard earned cash on a quality set of knives and learn how to keep them sharp – Eat out and read about the industry.
Remember to enjoy yourself.
Remember that it’s a marathon not a sprint and that it’s your own race – choose your role models well.
2. What qualities are you looking for in your more junior chefs when recruiting new staff?
Common sense – demonstration of putting some effort in – manners – clean tidy appearance.
3. Would you recommend that staff do stages & how do people get to do a stage with you?
I always recommend to my staff to do stages and have arranged several – if you write a reasonably formatted request letter and / or pop by the restaurant out of service hours most restaurants will be more than keen to have you.
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?
This is always going to be a controversial subject – there will always be those that are willing to put in extra effort to achieve their goals and there will always be those that aren’t - People are individuals not robots – and we need to realise we are not invincible.
When I worked for Richard Neat in Cannes we worked six days a week – split shifts – in an extremely driven / demanding environment – sometimes for two weeks at a time without a day off due to the film festival – However we were always willing to put in more as we felt that as a team we were at the front of the pack and were trailblazing so to speak being the only English run starred restaurant in France at that time.
It would be interesting to learn if the restaurant where the chef was working who passed away- was:
- Aware that he was working so hard
- If it was because it was the chef made the menu too complicated by his own desires
- It really was necessary for him to put so many hours in – without taking time off – or if he was unable to efficiently organise and manage his team? (Or what I like to call ‘Hero – Syndrome)
- As chefs we invest a huge amount of our time into learning to cook. Should we also pursure (pursue) an investment into management?
It’s a tricky thing to balance when running a business, in the issue of running costs against profitability.
Consistency plays a big role as well of having less chefs to control with a smaller brigade.
We are lucky here at Roux@Parliment Square as we are closed Saturday and Sunday due to our location.
We aim to have the guys working 8 shifts per week – sometimes due to holidays or sickness this just not possible to maintain the standards that we have been working the rest of the year to achieve – accolades are not awarded off the back of 1 great meal – so sometimes a little extra is required.
I always think of fine dining restaurant as the Special Forces of the industry;
You need talented people who are willing to give it their all – they have to pass a selection /introduction test.
-You expect a level of professionalism and a certain attitude. In return – they get to generally work with the best equipment, the best work collegues, in the most professional environments – and then hopefully produce the best results/performance.
However are you ever going to get the most out of your team when you are pushing them to do over 100hours a week?
In some cases YES in some cases No…?
SUBJECT STILL OPEN FOR DEBATE…..
5.Do you think that the media (in particular television) have raised the profile of the industry in a positive way?
What do they say about all publicity being good….?
I think that certain areas have raise awareness of our profession – however I would question whever they have been honest and not painted an unrealistic portrait of the truth.
We need to attract more people into the trade who want to be actually involved in the nuts and bolts of exceeding peoples expectations and providing a service – rather than thinking it’s a path to get onto TV or become a celebrity.
If we can use the media correctly to inspire people and recognise the real talent and dedication of craftspeople in this industry – then great,
If we are using the media just to profit, for self-publication and not giving anything back to the people by portraying a fantasy world – Then whats the point at all?
Many thanks to Mr Stuart for taking the time to complete the ’5Questions’, if you would like to contact him about career opportunities he can be found here;
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors,
Tel: 020 7334 3737