Simon Young – My Life in Hospitality

12 August 2009 by
Simon Young – My Life in Hospitality

Simon Young is the executive chef of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge, London.

It was during a summer spent working at the acclaimed Glyndebourne opera festival in Sussex as a commis chef aged 15 that Simon Young says he developed the bug for cooking and hospitality.

"I was given the opportunity to be creative on a daily basis, working with fresh food, and I relished the challenge," he says.

From here he worked at various South Coast hotels, such as the Metropole in Brighton, before recognising the need to gain experience in London and abroad. Consistency, flexibility and reliability are the three most important qualities to succeed, believes Young.

"With these three things your career will move forward. I employ chefs on the basis of their attitude, not skills. If you have the right attitude, everything else will fall into place."

Young says he learnt to cook under Alan Garth, former head chef at Horsted Place Country House Hotel near Uckfield, East Sussex, and the Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor hotel in West Sussex. "We grew our own produce and cooked everything from scratch," he says.

But he learnt his organisational skills from Willi Elsener, the former executive chef at the Dorchester. "His kitchens ran like a Swiss watch," adds Young.

.. Being appointed executive chef at the Jumeirah hotel, London, was a dream come true. When I worked as a young commis chef over 20 years ago at another London hotel, I used to walk past the Jumeirah hotel every morning dreaming of one day running the kitchen. I couldn't even afford the bus fare to Clapham at the time but there was just something about that place that attracted me and it meant a lot to get there.

Another high was coaching all my team to compete at Hotelympia and see every one of them win medals. We've done this twice now and it was an amazing feeling. My third "high" was winning the Craft Guild of Chefs 2007 Banquet Chef of the Year award, which I dedicated to my banquet kitchen brigade.

… While working at the Brighton Metropole hotel in 1984 as a commis chef, the hotel next door, the Grand, was bombed by the IRA. Guests were evacuated and moved to the Metropole, which was already full, but we took them all in.

It was mega-early in the morning and I can still remember riding down the road on my motorbike watching people in their dressing gowns walking along with black smoky faces. The whole day was very sombre.

Another low was when I moved to Ontario, Canada, for my first head chef position just after meeting my future wife, Lorraine. It didn't take long before I realised I'd made a mistake and came straight back home.

I returned with no job and just £200 in my pocket. I'd never been unemployed before and I worked for four weeks at a temping agency, which was very depressing, before getting back into hospitality.

Simon Young will be hosting Caterer & Hotelkeeper‘s Chef Conference at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, London, on 28 September.

Age 42
Status Married
Favourite holiday Tuscany
Drives Audi, but is also a self-confessed "motorbike nut" and owns a Triumph Daytona
Working motto The early bird catches the worm


1995-97 Premier sous chef at the Dorchester hotel, Park Lane, London
1999-2003 Head chef for the opening of the Great Eastern hotel, Liverpool Street, London, with five restaurants and 12 private dining rooms
2003-present Executive chef at Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, Knightsbridge, London

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