Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

This much I know: John Hearn

10 August 2018 by
This much I know: John Hearn

The executive head chef of Tapenade is one of the longest-serving members of staff, having worked for the catering company since its inception in 1999.

When I was a child I wanted to be a farmer. I loved the idea of working on the land and growing fresh produce, however, my interest in cooking food soon overtook my love of growing food as I discovered new tastes, ingredients and ways of cooking. I still to this day have a great passion for growing and cooking with fresh, organic, home-grown produce.

My first job was in a Spanish- Italian restaurant on the edge of Windsor Great Park. This is where I first experimented with flavours and developed my skills working in a kitchen. Here I first learned how different ingredients complement each other and started to build the foundation for my culinary career.

I love being a chef because every day is different. You work with some of the humblest ingredients to create something that makes people happy. Each day I get to create something new; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but every day is different and that's really exciting.

Over the years I've also learned that sometimes less is more when cooking - I try to design recipes that combine flavours to maximise each individual zest in the overall dish. I get really frustrated if a beautiful flavour gets lost in a sea of complication on the palate.

The industry has changed a great deal since I started out. There are a lot more industry TV personalities around and it seems everyone is a chef these days. Ingredients are becoming increasingly more and more accessible to the home, which means we have to continue to innovate and get creative to impress our guests and show them something that they can't cook for themselves.

I've been working in the hospitality industry for more than 25 years, so there have been many challenges I've had to overcome. Most recently, we catered for a conference where all the guests were vegan and 80% of the food had to be gluten-free as well. There was a big challenge in meeting high expectations for creative and colourful vegan food - not easy with more than 3,000 delegates.

Other events have challenged us in different ways, such as creating a high-end fine-dining menu for international guests, all with varying expectations and specific dietary requirements, and another large-scale event catering for nearly 200,000 guests. I believe the key to success is ensuring that all aspects of an event are considered, from menu to staff to logistics; if you hope for the best but plan for the worst, there is little that can go wrong!

My words of wisdom for someone wanting to join the industry would be… Do the hard yards, work hard, take notes, ask questions and look after the people who you work with.

My cooking style has changed and developed significantly over my culinary career. When I was younger and starting out I think I used to over-complicate my dishes, but now I have learned to keep it simple, perfecting dishes with fewer flavours and letting just a few beautiful, great quality ingredients do the talking.

The key to success? Hard work.

It's difficult to say what the highlight of my career to date is. Catering for royalty at events and working alongside some of the top names in the industry has been a great experience, but ultimately, I never tire of having happy diners give me their compliments. Catering is my passion and it's always great to receive positive feedback when doing a job you love.

In terms of my future in the industry, I'm excited to continue to innovate and get creative with our clients' briefs. Over the past few years I have become increasingly interested in corporate social responsibility. I hope that some of the passion projects I'm planning for the next few years will lead the way for the events industry in environmental and responsible catering.

I don't think you ever really do achieve your dream because it changes the closer you get. I just want to continue to work hard and keep improving so I'm at the top of my game.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.

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