Chefs aren’t supposed to be humble or put other people first, writes Will Holland. They work in a high-pressure, high-octane, dog-eat-dog industry where only the toughest survive.
But the best chefs, the ones who last the course, know that there’s much more to running a successful kitchen. They have a duty to nurture young talent. It’s their responsibility to inspire and motivate the next generation and to pass on their skills and teach the craft.
A good head chef needs to be a leader – and every good leader knows the importance of training their staff. Make no mistake; youth is the future of the industry in which I work. In my six-and-a-half years in Shropshire I’ve worked with countless youngsters who have stood out and I’ve tried to help them as best I can.
One youngster who recently caught my eye was a lad called Elliott, who came to spend a day in the kitchen with me. Elliott wasn’t looking for a job; he already had a part-time position at The Stagg Inn, at Titley. He was simply a young chef who was studying at catering college and wanted to gain as much experience as possible.
When I meet the next generation of chefs, I don’t necessarily look for kids who have got fantastic levels of skill because skills can be taught. What impresses me most is youngsters who have the right attitude.
Being self-motivated, respectful, self-disciplined and committed is essential. Chefs have to be determined and selfish. They have to devote themselves to their vocation and have a mind like a sponge.
Elliott was a brilliant example of that. He listened and got on with everything that was asked of him. He realised that he wasn’t going to have a profile the next day; he was humble enough and realised he still had a lot to learn.
As a head chef, I’ve always looked at it as being my duty to pass on the lessons I’ve learned. Every leader needs to build a team – and I’m no different. Few things give me as much pleasure as seeing individuals blossom, however different they might be. That’s one of the unseen privileges of working in a busy kitchen.
* Will Holland is a multi-award-winning Shropshire-based chef who won a Michelin star before the age of 30 and was a regional winner on BBC TV’s Great British Menu