Derek Quelch, 35, has been executive head chef of the Goring hotel in London’s Victoria for four years and is responsible for providing up to 350 meals a day.
I don’t really think about what time I get up, but it’s generally around 6am. The day begins with a bowl of cereal, shower, shave and an orange juice. It’s important to start the day with breakfast for your general wellbeing; not having breakfast can also lead to health problems such as stomach ulcers.
I live outside London and commute in, so if everything runs on time, I’ll be in the kitchen about 8am. The first thing I do is check that the breakfast shift went OK and see if I’ve got any messages. Then I go through the previous day’s figures. It’s good to have daily control of what’s being spent, so you’re ready for the end-of-month food costing and, ultimately, the end-of-year results.
At 8.30am I have a morning meeting with the staff for about 15-20 minutes. We go over the day’s bookings and check we’re all singing from the same song sheet, so to speak. It’s a chance to go through the day’s functions, to get the final numbers, and check that timing and menus are organised.
At 9am on Mondays and Thursdays I have a meeting with the general manager to go through what’s going on in the kitchen and any staff issues.
The meeting is followed by a quick check on deliveries, temperature control and hygiene. I also have a chit-chat with the suppliers as they come in and look at any new products. This is followed by an inspection of all sections in the kitchen to see if anyone needs any extra help.
Then it’s on to the tasting session. Whenever I do a new menu, we get the kitchen staff to make comments. It’s good to get the staff to look at the food as if they were guests, both as a training exercise and to help construct the dish. You also get more commitment from staff if they feel involved. Cooking can be simple, it’s just people who make it complicated.
At 11am it’s time to check the bookings again and start tasting everything for lunch. I need to check everything in advance to ensure we have a consistent product.
The first service of the day is the bar, which opens at 11am and stays open to 11pm. Things really start to pick up about midday, though. The restaurant opens at 12.30pm, at which point I’m on the hotplate for service until about 2.30-3pm. We place orders for the second deliveries of the day about 1.30pm.
The staff eat lunch between 11am and 12.30pm. I insist that all staff have lunch, because if people have a break they always feel better when they come back. I sit down for a light lunch, usually a salad, with my sous chef at about 2.30pm or 3pm.
Afternoons are spent doing administration and in meetings. I have a small office in the kitchen, so I’m around all day.
The restaurant opens for dinner at 6pm. There are always a few pre-theatre guests, but main service starts at about 7.30pm and I’ll be on the hotplate again. By 9.30pm, the restaurant starts to slow down, so I check to see if we need to place any more orders with the suppliers for the next day, before heading home between 9pm and 10pm.
I might have a quick sandwich at work, but I like to get home in time to feed our baby Megan and put her to bed. Having a baby has changed my whole thought process – it’s amazing how nothing matters as much any more. Bed is usually around 11.30pm or midnight, after a shower, and a chat with my wife.
The Goring hotel
Beeston Place, London SW1W OJW
Tel: 020 7396 9000
Web site: www.goringhotel.co.uk
Kitchen staff: 21 chefs, nine kitchen porters, three canteen assistants (staff food)
Just a minute…
What is your message to Tony Blair?
I think he should spend more time putting right the problems in this country.
What is your favourite restaurant?
The Bistro on the Bridge in Bournemouth, because of its consistently friendly hospitality. I like to go there with my in-laws.
Whom do you most admire in the industry?
Jean-Claude Guillon at the Grand hotel in Cap-Ferrat, France, because his management skills are fantastic; John Williams at Claridge’s, because he taught me how to manage a kitchen and allowed me to make mistakes; and Anton Edelmann at the Savoy, for the size of the operation he runs.