Recently appointed to his first head chef position at Hotel Tannenhof in the Austrian ski resort of St Anton am Arlberg, James Baron tells Janet Harmer how a happy team creates happy guests
What inspired you to take your first overseas position in Canada in 2008?
How easy was it for you to secure that first overseas job?
A French friend wrote my CV, incorporating a few white lies regarding my language abilities. The challenge and risk was keeping the job after they realised I couldn't speak fluent French! But if you can cook well and dedicate yourself to learning the language quickly, people - in my experience - are very supportive.
What attracted you to go on to work in Switzerland?
I was often in Switzerland for family holidays and I have always found the locals to be very welcoming. I wanted to improve my French first of all and decided that Switzerland would be friendlier and more familiar than France.
Describe the style and setting of the Hotel Tannenhof, where you are currently working
The hotel is tucked away in a quiet corner of St Anton. We have a five-star superior rating and only seven suites, so the focus is really on creating a personal and intimate experience for our guests at the very highest level.
What about the food?
My food is relatively uncomplicated in its conception - rarely more than four components make up a dish. Yet with these four ingredients we create harmonious and dynamic dishes that excite and interest our guests. Some examples would be black pudding, red cabbage and pears; foie gras, quince and Périgord truffle; and pike, salsify, lemon and brown butter.
The dining experience that we are evolving for our guests in the Tannenhof must be connected to the roots and traditions of the Tyrol, but with an innovative and dynamic edge.
What are your responsibilities?
Creating a good atmosphere in the kitchen is very important. A healthy working environment creates a well-motivated, creative and organised team. The days of shouting and screaming are over. Of course, discipline is necessary, but working as a team with respect for one another is the future. We focus on attention to detail and work together to improve the experience of each and every guest.
What are the key challenges?
We have many international guests, all of whom have different expectations. For me, one of my biggest challenges is cooking well enough every day to exceed these expectations.
What are the best aspects of living and working in St Anton?
Skiing in the winter and golfing in the summer!
What languages do you speak?
I now speak fluent French and German - both of which I learned on the job, which, in my opinion, is the best way. Once you reach the level of head chef, the language becomes more important. Building a network of good suppliers and communicating with them daily in their language is a must.
Are there are other British employees working in St Anton?
There are plenty of British staff here on a seasonal basis.
Do you have plans to return to work in the UK?
I miss England but I am very happy here at the Tannenhof. I have a great chance and platform to evolve my culinary style here and I am enjoying creating unforgettable experiences.
2015-present Head chef, Hotel Tannenhof, St Anton, Austria
2014-2015 Head chef, B12 restaurant, Chur, Switzerland
2010-2014 Chef de partie to sous chef, Schloss Schauenstein, FÁ¼rstenau, Switzerland
2009-2010 Chef de partie Hotel le Terminus, Sierre, Switzerland
2008-2009 Chef de partie, Hotel Le Beausite, Saint-Luc, Switzerland
2008 Chef de partie, Restaurant Creekside, Banff, Canada
2004-2008 Apprentice to chef de partie, Restaurant JSW, Petersfield, Hampshire
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