Keith Shearer is busier than usual. He's just opened a tearoom at the Liberty department store in London, owned by parent company Marylebone Warwick Balfour, and on 28 November the new Malmaison Oxford hotel opens to the public.
Shearer has been busy designing the menus and kitchens and overseeing staff training for both sites, which has involved everything from choosing fine teas in London from Taylors of Harrogate to preparing the brasserie menu at Oxford.
Based in Edinburgh, Shearer admits that he spends more time at the group's 16 hotels each week than at home. "I guess you'd describe my role as that of a conductor," he says.
In the short term, Shearer will be based at the new hotel, providing the head chef there with support and helping the new brigade get used to the kitchen and menu. To aid this he has pulled together the menu from existing Malmaison classics as the head chef will have plenty to do in the run-up to opening.
Shearer usually constructs about 60% of the seasonal menu for each of the group's hotels, with the individual head chefs at each property contributing the rest. He also helps to design kitchens and select equipment from an increasingly standardised pool. "This is the fifth opening I've been responsible for, so the roll-out is now more about tailoring our existing equipment and practices to best suit each hotel rather than starting from scratch," he says.
Shearer joined Malmaison in 1995 as a sous chef, a role he held for just a month before stepping up to head chef at the company's Edinburgh property. After this he looked after the Glasgow hotel before winning promotion to operations chef in 1999 and his current executive role in 2001, which sees him travelling around the country.
He has worked at the Balmoral and the Café Royal during his career, but decided long ago that there's no value in reinventing dishes for the sake of it. "Good food is good food. I subscribe to the Stein/Hopkinson philosophies of keeping things simple and getting hold of the best produce you can," he says. "People often want comforting food rather than something that elicits a ‘what the hell is that?' reaction."
Salary watch: What executive chefs should be earning
|Three-star, up to 100 rooms||£23,000||£26,000-£28,000||£30,000|
|Three-star, 100-plus rooms||£24,000||£26,000-£29,000||£33,000|
|Four-star, up to 100 rooms||£26,000||£30,000-£34,000||£38,000|
|Four-star, 100-plus rooms||£29,000||£32,000-£40,000||£62,000|
|Five-star, up to 100 rooms||£33,000||£40,000-£48,000||£65,000|
|Five-star, 100-plus rooms||£35,000||£65,000-£80,000||£124,000|