How I got here

07 April 2005 by
How I got here

If you want to reach the highest level, you have to graft - that's the line Clare Smyth has followed as she has pursued a career in fine-dining.

It means a 17- to 18-hour day, five days a week, for the 26-year-old senior sous chef. But the responsibility of her role - the buck stops with her when it comes to the brigade's performance - and the energy of the kitchen provide the pressure that Smyth readily admits she thrives on.


After joining the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 2002 as demi chef de partie, Smyth worked at most of the kitchen stations - essential experience for a female chef in an environment that is famously Boys' Own. "It took time to win respect," she says, "and the only way to earn it is to stick at your job and put in the hours."

One of the most exciting things about her current role is that menu experimentation is encouraged, and Smyth receives great feedback on her creations from executive chef Mark Askew and head chef Simone Zanoni. Being part of the Gordon Ramsay empire, there's also the boon of occasional insights from PŽtrus chef-patron Marcus Wareing and from Ramsay himself.

Smyth certainly isn't lazy and, knowing the fine-dining route she wanted to travel, she has pursued it from the start of her career. This meant that during her time at the St Enodoc hotel in Rock, Cornwall, first as a sous chef in 1998 and returning as head chef in 2000, she wrote to the UK's growing number of two-Michelin-starred restaurants asking to undertake stages on her days off. Subsequent placements included the Fat Duck in Bray and Gidleigh Park in Devon. Although it was tiring, she describes the experience as invaluable and a real eye-opener.

Smyth's interest in the industry began in 1992 when she was a part-time kitchen assistant at Hillcrest Country House, Bushmills, County Antrim. In 1995 she joined Grayshott Hall in Surrey as commis chef, and in 1996 she became chef de partie at the Birch hotel, Haywards Heath, West Sussex. In 1997, she joined the Bibendum restaurant in London's Fulham Road.

And what next? Well, having experienced running the show in Cornwall and continually expanding and refining her skills, Smyth wants to one day open her own place and gain recognition. It's an outcome you certainly wouldn't bet against. "What I'm doing now," she says, "is pushing me and teaching me how to run my own kitchen."

Career highlights


Head chef at St Enodoc hotel, Cornwall

Joins Restaurant Gordon Ramsay as demi chef de partie

Promotion to senior sous chef

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