From breakfast boy to winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs 2014 Young National Chef of the Year, Luke Selby speaks to Hannah Thompson
How did you find your way into the hospitality industry?
I've always loved food, so I just pushed myself and asked questions. When I worked at Springwells hotel, they trusted me to do breakfast, and it went from there. On Sundays I used to do a paper round from 7am, then go and cook the breakfasts from 8am. I had a good work ethic from an early age.
How did you get to what you're doing at Le Manoir?
Your younger brother Theo (19) also works at Le Manoir. What is it like having him in the kitchen too?
He started about 10 months ago as a commis. It can be difficult, because you have to take that emotional aspect out of it and not treat him any differently. But I'm very happy for him. He's in a good kitchen and is learning his craft.
Have you had a mentor? How have they helped you?
Gary Jones [executive head chef at Le Manoir] has been my mentor for the past five years. I started as a 17-year-old boy and now I'm running his kitchen for him. He was the first person to really push me to get better and analyse what I'm doing. He passed down the knowledge I needed, including the managerial skills to run a 37-people brigade.
How did you prepare for the Young National Chef of the Year competition? Were you nervous?
It was manic at work right up until the competition, so it's been tough. But I basically worked every single day off I had, coming in, looking at my menu and practising.
I actually really enjoyed the day [7 October] - it was so great to meet judges of that calibre [Philip Howard, Marcus Wareing, Clare Smyth, Tom Kerridge and Jason Atherton]. Nerves didn't really come into it until I was standing on the stage, waiting for the results. I was just concerned that
I delivered to the best of my ability.
What training opportunities have you been given?
It's learning on the job. We have a structure and each section gets harder. When you start doing the pass, it's looking at the whole picture, learning how to organise people and run the kitchen. Sometimes the chef will send us on training courses in business or hygiene. That's why I've stayed so
long here; I just carry on learning.
What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?
I want my own restaurant - I think every chef wants that. I don't want to sound cocky, but I'd like to have a successful business in my own style: good, simple cooking. I'd also quite like to be in London. Right now I'd love to stage at other restaurants; it's just all about learning and developing.
Who do you think is the best ambassador for the hospitality industry?
Clare Smyth. I spent a day in her kitchen and I really like her resource and how she runs it. I also like Philip Howard at the Square. They are both incredible, but Clare's attention to detail, her work ethicâ¦ it shows that she is still pushing and developing.
Would you recommend the industry to others?
It's very rewarding. You have to really want it and work hard, but if you enjoy what you're doing, then it's great. Lastly, how does it feel to be
Young National Chef of the Year?
I don't feel any different! I just went in and cooked. I've always known what I wanted to do, so it's great to get recognition. I was just very proud to represent Le Manoir and everybody here.
- 2007-2009 Breakfast chef and waiter, Springwells hotel, Steyning, West Sussex; commis chef at Whites Restaurant
- 2008 Finalist in the Rotary Young Chef of the Year, judged by Raymond Blanc
- 2008 Work experience at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire
- 2009-2014 Commis chef to junior sous chef, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
- 2014 Sous chef, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons