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The Caterer

How I got here

23 September 2004
How I got here

"Never compromise on what you want to cook," says Alex Carroll, sous chef at Brighton's Real Eating Company (REC). "I'm producing the sort of food I want to for

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the first time in my life without killing myself." The 26-year-old joined Helene Hudson's restaurant and deli business last year ahead of its official launch on 14 January. It was a unique venture in the area, and Carroll describes the first few opening days as bedlam. "I think the main pressure for me was that I simply didn't know what I was letting myself in for," he says. "We had people eating in the restaurant and using the deli, but also coming in just to have a look around because the business is housed in such an interesting old building." The REC offers locals a 35-seat restaurant where the menu changes daily and describes itself as a "gourmet superstore". It is based in a four-storey Victorian building and recently launched an online delivery service. The brigade is small, at six, as is the kitchen, so the team matches the menu to what they can realistically cook and prepare in the space they have. The young sous chef started his career at Brighton's famous Grand hotel in 1996, after taking a work placement as part of his chef training. After finishing his studies he was promoted from commis to demi chef de partie at the hotel and, two years on, decided to travel. His trip took him to New Zealand, Thailand and the USA, culminating in a job at Barzura restaurant in Sydney. "It was a real eye opener," says Carroll. "The diet is very different out there, in part due to the climate. It's basically a really good life for a chef." In September 1999 he became chef de partie at the Royal Garden hotel in London's Kensington and stayed for just over two years. After going travelling once more, Carroll became chef de partie at vegetarian restaurant Terre … Terre in Brighton. In October 2002 he moved on to Hotel du Vin, which was new to the town, still as a chef de partie. One of the most satisfying things for Carroll about the REC is that to get to the fridge he has to walk through the restaurant area, which means he gets to see the regulars and witness them enjoying the food he's produced. "You're not confined to the dungeon, as you can be in other restaurants," he says. Career highlights 1996 Starts career at the Grand hotel, Brighton 1999 Becomes chef de partie at the Royal Garden hotel, Kensington 2002 Chef de partie at Terre … Terre, later joining Hotel du Vin, Brighton 2003 Sous chef at the Real Eating Company
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