Words of Advice ~ Laurie Gear

This edition of the ‘5Questions‘ comes from a chef where you would think the world was against him. After opening the Artichoke restaurant in Old Amersham in 2002, they suffered a major set back 6 years later. In June 2008 a fire in a neighbouring fish restaurant spread to the Artichoke, subsequently causing it to close. At the time Laurie Gear estimated that they would only be closed for six months, but it took some 17 months before they reopened. Since the re-opening in November 2009 they were only one of four restaurants to receive a rising star this year from Michelin, and they have also received an editors choice award from another guide book.

Mr Gear’s style of food has come from years of finely honing his craft, which has it’s origins in his classic French training combined with the more contemporary influences and inspirations. A recent stint at NOMA in Copenhagen is visible in his food, along with the highly seasonal food that comes with foraging, makes Artichoke a prime candidate to continue going from strength to strength. This clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed within the industry, with the Gears’ featuring on the front cover of the Caterer and receiving a double page spread mid February

After their setback of  2008, it is a privilege to present Mr Laurie Gear’s ‘5Questions’.

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

Test the water first by phoning a restaurant you’d like to work in and asking for a days unpaid work  to see if its really what you want and see how it really is…

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

Attitude, attitude and attitude  – with a good one we can build on something, with a bad one we have nothing .Stamina and a willingness to learn is also very important

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

Yes, most definitely. It helps enrich their knowledge and in turn benefits the restaurant – providing they don’t bugger off to work elsewhere!!  To get a stage at Artichoke phone either myself or my sous chef Ben Jenkins – we are human after all, honest, and most chefs I know would do their best to help !

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?

The industry has to change and is .Some of these headlines are one-off shockers but yes, chefs do work long hours and restaurants are under increasing pressures to meet ever increasing costs so as a chef and restaurateur I see both sides of the coin. It is also worth mentioning customers need to see how our industry works and how hard it is to make a decent living out of the industry these days, it’s not the license to print money people seem to think it is. We do however have a duty within the industry to look after our staff – without them we are nothing .

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

At times, yes and no . At least the recent series Service with Michel Roux jnr has highlighted our industry’s desperate shortage of front of house within the UK and set out to show that it is a career choice with pride and great prospects .Few TV programmes show the career opportunities within the industry at the many levels it has to offer, instead they focus on the entertainment value paying particular attention to someone’s incompetence and the negatives .How about all the wonderful things we have to offer as a focal point for once, in turn it would bring about the new blood this industry so desperately needs .

As ever, The Chef Hermes Blog would like to thank Mr Laurie Gear for taking the time to participate in the ‘5Questions’, which was facilitated by Caroline Warwick of Crisp Media , thank you Caroline.

Mr Gear can be found at The Artichoke restaurant should you wish to enquire about possible employment opportunities.

The Artichoke
9 Market Square,

Old Amersham,

BUCKS HP7 ODF

Tel: 01494 726611
Email: info@artichokerestaurant.co.uk

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