Philip Corrick – My life in hospitality

30 July 2009
Philip Corrick – My life in hospitality

Philip Corrick is the executive chef of the Royal Automobile Club.

Phillip Corrick has worked at the RAC club for more than 20 years. His move into the kitchen of a private members' club wasn't considered "the sexiest route for a chef to take" at the time, but Corrick says that now some of his colleagues "would be queuing round the block for my job if I left".

His dedication to the venue speaks for itself. After spending years working for the Savoy group at Claridge's and the Berkeley, Corrick joined the ranks of the club in 1989. But his entry into hospitality was a reluctant one. "I started when I was 14 but I didn't want to," he says. "I thought, there's no way I want to work weekends and nights when all my friends are going out."

But when he started a summer job working in a seaside hotel in Devon carrying suitcases and peeling potatoes, Corrick was taken under the wing of passionate rookie chef Martin Perriman. "He got me to apply for a catering course and, when I got a letter back saying I might be called for an interview, he called the college's head of department and told him I could do all sorts of things I couldn't do like make soufflés. I got a place on the course and then had to work extra hard. But I don't look back with any regret."

Corrick has obviously taken his lead from his first mentor, as, since working at the club he has cultivated a whole host of relationships with catering colleges, both locally and further afield. "We've done lots of amazing things here over the years with catering colleges and charities," he says. "We've worked with the likes of Michel Roux, Brian Turner and John Williams, which is motivating for the staff. For me it's all about developing the future of the industry."

Why has he stayed in one place for so long? "The club's a bit like the Forth Bridge, you get to one end and then you start over again. There's always new challenges and projects and chefs visiting from all over the world. There's a constant emphasis on improvement."

HIGHS… We did an entente cordiale 200-year anniversary and we had lots of top British and French chefs here. There were 14 Michelin stars in the kitchen that night which was pretty incredible. Generally, there are high points all the time - the biggest thing is still being motivated and enjoying it - as long as that's there it's great.

Michel Bourdin was a big influence for me. Even though I never worked with him he helped and guided me. People like the Roux Brothers and Anton Mosimann have given the industry the respect it deserves. If it wasn't for those people we wouldn't be enjoying what chefs are enjoying today. We're treated as professionals now.

Going back 40 years when I first started out it wasn't a well-respected job, but it has come a long way and it's a great career and a great opportunity to travel and meet people.

LOWS… I regretted leaving the Berkeley. I left and then I went back - it was a great platform to work from, but I left there too soon and that was a low point for me.

I first came here when the Gulf War had just kicked off, and though clubs are usually among the last places to feel things like that, it was difficult.

There's a lot of pressure on people in the industry and I think we could be better ambassadors for our profession in terms of the hours people work. People say that in the old days we used to work long hours, but in general I don't remember a time when chefs worked for as long as they do today.

Family: Married, two children
Age: 55
Favourite holiday: Trekking round New York trying out all the restaurants
Drives: Range Rover
Motto: Remain positive


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