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Sean Burbidge, Head Chef, Petrus, London
Sean thank you for inviting me in. Give us an overview of your role here at Petrus please?
Well its pretty much the classic head chef role with the day to day running of the kitchen -ordering, menus, recruiting of the staff of course, managing the team and working with the front of house team.
How many guys do you have in the kitchen?
At the moment 14 but we're looking to expand that slightly as well so probably up to 18 in the near future.
And Petrus is open lunch and dinner seven days a week?
Six days a week, we're closed on Sunday. The Chefs are working a four day week.
So four 12 hour days?
In reality it does work out to be a bit longer than 12 hours obviously this industry’s is always long hours and I don’t see this is ever going to change, but we try to ensure that the chefs get a good work / life balance, and can enjoy their time off as well as their working time .
So you talk about menus talk us through the process of menu development is it your ideas, you then run those by head office and Gordon? How does menu development work for you?
I lead on changes to the menu, I come up with new dishes consulting with our team at Petrus and discuss the changes with Gordon, who gives his input . When making changes to the menu we ensure we strike the right balance between what we know will appeal to our customers and more expansive dishes. We are constantly working on dishes so as to continually develop Petrus which in turn is great for the team here in the kitchen .
How would you summarise the food style here at Petrus, if you had to sum it up in one sort of genre?
The food style here is modern French with wider European influences.
We use the best produce from all over Europe . If we are using pork from Spain then it must be Iberico . We try and source the best products from the best regions for seasonality and quality.
In terms of your role Sean, what would you see to be your biggest challenges within your role day to day?
Our biggest day to day challenge is consistency, the high standards we set must be the same with every service, especially as we have so many regulars here at Petrus, so its all about ensuring we hit that mark.
Sean how do you maintain those standards do you have recipe cards, is everything photographed? What do you do to make sure that everything’s consistence…
With every new dish we do up a recipe that is then used as the basis for the dish. We try to always develop the food a little every day so quite often a dish can change as it develops. So then it comes down to the controls we have in place and the constant tasting and checking of dishes which is done before every service. This will identify any issues we could have or anything we are not happy with as when it comes to service it is then too late to make changes or correct things.
How many sous chefs do you have Sean?
One senior sous chef and one junior sous chef.
What do you think has been your greatest success in your career so far working here at Petrus? If you could just pick one thing what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
Achieving the Michelin star. We all know, that…in this industry it’s where the benchmark’s set, it was a great achievement for us all.
Of course congratulations. Is that a poison chalice to a degree? Does it put more pressure on you?
Yes it does, as of course they can be lost. But I think this is often why many who work in this industry come to work every day – well at least my team. We are really motivated to keeping the standards high and giving our guests the best possible experience.
Does it help attract staff for the restaurant then?
I think so yes. Anybody that wants to work at the top end of the industry that's what they look for when you’re looking for a job - the star attracts them. I don't think it’s just the star though…obviously you need to look for restaurants that are going forward as well.,
In terms of your role then as head chef Sean how do you feel you've developed here as both a chef and a manager from when you started? What sort of changes have you seen in yourself?
Before I joined Petrus I was working at Gordon’s consultancies in Versailles where I was sous chef. The operation there was a lot bigger, two different restaurants, banqueting, room service and breakfast, I was pretty much running the kitchen in France on a day to day basis, but here at Petrus the buck stops with me and that’s different. So anything that's wrong reflects on me and of course Gordon, so I think you step up to that responsibility, but there's more pressure on you. If it’s not right it comes back to you. I also think working with the front and back of house has developed me. It was not something I did when I was sous chef, so I think that's probably the biggest areas of development.
And how much involvement does Gordon have with you now?
Obviously he's not around all the time, he can't be, he's got so many other projects he is working on,which is why he is fanatical about the teams he puts in place in all his restaurants. Of course when Gordon’s in London he’ll be in, he’ll be seeing what’s going on here at the restaurant, he phones up all the time to check everything’s all right, asking about the menu, any changes that we make, We’re focused on maintaining the standards he expects of us and most importantly what our guests expect
Sean you’re head chef of one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, the very high profile Petrus, a synonymous name in the industry where do you want to be in five years time? Where do you hope this period in your career is going to take you? Is it your own restaurant? Is it a restaurant under Gordon? Where do you want to be Sean?
Petrus is my first head chef position and as the restaurant is only two years old, there is a lot more I want to do here, five years is a long way off. I of course have ambitions and maybe one day it would be great to have my own restaurant but that’s a big, bold move and right now I’m focused on learning as much as possible and developing Petrus to be one of London's best restaurants and striving for excellence on a day to day basis .
Sean thank you very much. I wish you every success in your role. Thanks very much for agreeing to see us.