Words of Advice ~ Jason Atherton

Yes, the title reads right, the former Maze chef Jason Atherton shares his words of advice with our readers. Although Mr Atherton needs no introduction, we’re going to do one anyway.

Amongst his many claims to fame Mr Atherton was the first British chef to stage at the famed El Bulli restaurant, where it is just as hard to get a table let alone a stage or job. After El Bulli he returned back to the UK and to work at Frith Street along side Stephen Terry and in 2000 earned himself an Acorn from the Caterer. After another brief stint working for Claudio Pulze, this time in Kensington running L’Anis (which subsequently closed), he moved on to working for the Gordon Ramsay empire. He moved to Dubai to run the GRH food offerings there, Mr Atherton was offered the chance by Gordon to open Maze London in 2005 and eventually branch out as a brand. 5 Years later and after nine or so years with Mr Ramsay, he decided that it was time for his own place. Despite the rumours circulating at the time GRH denied them vehemently, until Mr Ramsay broke his silence on twitter,

Jason’s ready to fly the nest.Time for him to have his name above the door.Who doesn’t want that? I wish him every success, an amazing guy.

The obvious respect for one another in light of such a loss for Maze & GRH was plain to see, with Mr Atherton replying in an interview with Bloomberg’s Richard Vines,

If I succeed because it means Gordon has does a good job training his guys. I’m really excited to get a chance to use all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over 20 years cooking to finally do my own venture.

Later on that year he announced that he would be setting up shop with his new venture

Pollen Street Social

It is expected that Pollen Street Social will open early 2011, but for more regular updates follow Mr Atherton on Twitter as he often posts about his new restaurant.

Without further a do, here are Jason Atherton’s ‘5Questions’.

1.   What would be your best piece of advice for a fresh faced school leaver who is obsessed with ‘Food Porn’ looking to get into the industry?

I would say 2 things , make sure you have a true deep love for food and everything foodie it will get you through the dark long hours of the chef world. Also get a good education go to Bournemouth or Birmingham, Westminster or even abroad CIA these are great schools.

2.   What qualities are you looking for in your more junior chefs when recruiting new staff?

I looking for 3 things
1. Hunger (you can see it in the eyes)
2. Food love
3. Grafters (people who put everything they have into hard work)

3.   Would you recommend that staff do stages & how do people get to do a stage with you?

Stages are a good thing!! I have done loads in my time!! Its easy just turn up and work hard, also a little tip if you want to leave a good impression don’t start to think you are doing the restaurant a favour being there, remember they are doing you a favour and stay on and clean down with the boys it goes a long way and will earn you valuable browny points and respect with the crew.

4.   In light of the recent death of a young chef through excessive hours (on average 100+ per week, for multiple weeks – see our post), does the industry need to change & what changes have you made to reflect this in your own kitchens?

It is very hard for me to comment on this, we don’t know the circumstances surrounding this tragic death, but one thing is for sure we cant start saying hard work is bad for us!
Excess is bad for you and I think working 3 weeks with out days off is a little excess but I am not a doctor so I don’t really want to be dragged into something I know so little about. We always speak to our staff and ask them which shift pattern they prefer so they buy into the work environment, I am closing Pollen st Social on Sundays so I can give everyone the same day off.

5.   Do you think that the media (in particular television) have raised the profile of the industry in a positive way?

Yes I do ! I really do. This is fact I came to London in the last recession . It was horrible so many great chefs going bust ! You know big name chefs really tragic. This recession which is the biggest depression since the 30’s and you know because of the passion of the great british public and there love of food because of Saint Jamie (I call him this because he has done so much to raise the profile of food in this country ) and media in general, books the Michelin guide good food and AA guides also Hardens makes big headlines every year even celebrity chefs books every where you look. It has helped us stay around even in a big recession.
Big thanks to Mr Jason Atherton for taking the time to answer the ‘5Questions’, his new venture is as follows:
Pollen Street Social,
5 Pollen Street,
Mayfair,London W1.
Jason Atherton’s Website, for further details

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  3. […] impact he has made on the 40 or so chefs that pass through the el Bulli kitchens is profound. Jason Atherton, one of the first british chefs to sample the new ways said in a recent interview The guy is a […]



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