Images with kind permission from Paul Winch Furness
Steve Groves first of all thanks very much for inviting us in. Give us an overview here of your role at Roux Parliament Square, job responsibilities, number in your team, what you do on a day to day basis.
We have a team of ten chefs. Toby’s responsible for the entire operation and I'm here to support him. So when he's not here I'm running the kitchen. Dish development we do together. He encourages a lot of creativity from me and then obviously puts his spin on my dishes, asks for my advice on his dishes and we kind of bounce off each other and that's a good thing.
Is this your first sous chef role?
No I was sous chef at Launceston Place as well.
So in terms of you as a person then, how long have you been here now?
I've been here just over a year and a half.
Okay and how have you developed in that year and a half as a person and a manager?
I think with this role it has been more a case of learning to manage a team and it’s a reasonably big team.
Everybody teaches you how to cook, no one teaches you how to manage do they?
Absolutely and here it’s been a case of taking a more keen interest in things like the GP and looking at staff costs and I think a lot of that is why I came here to Parliament Square, I felt I was quite confident in my ability to cook well but I wanted to learn how to run a kitchen and run a business essentially.
What’s been your biggest challenge in your role?
It has to be learning how to run a team and take control of them and to get them to cook the way we, see the dishes should be.
So what have you done as a person, or what have you and Toby done? How have you gone through that change to become a manager
Well I think when I first got here it was quite difficult because it was quite a transitional period for the restaurant, they'd obviously just lost a chef and Toby had just come in, so trying to build a settled team where we…
It had hit the fan hadn’t it at the time
Yeah exactly and there was a lot of change going on and I think what we've achieved over the last say year is to get a settled team which obviously then allows us to have consistency for the food and I think the results of that are starting to show now. I think there's a lot less inconsistencies and we have a clear style and I think it’s, like I say, reflected on the plate.
And what do you think has been your greatest success here? What do you look back on over the last year and think, ‘Yeah I'm really proud of that,’?
I think the main thing I'm proud of is the way the kitchen’s operating now and I think the fact that we don’t have a high turnover of staff, people want to work here.
What have you done to reduce the turnover of staff then?
I think we've just helped motivate everybody. I think chefs like to be inspired and like to be pushed and I think the food we're doing it’s modern, it’s innovative and I think the guys are inspired by that so I think that's a big thing for them.
Steve it’s very difficult to come and talk to you without mentioning Masterchef, love it or loathe it, we all saw you on the telly. How, or did it change your career? Has it changed your career? Was it a good thing or was it a bad thing?
I think for me Masterchef was definitely a good thing, it’s given me contacts like Michel Roux and obviously having the chance to come and work for him has been a fantastic leg up in my career. I think personally I would have achieved my goals eventually anyway. I think Masterchef just accelerated my career path. One thing I was very keen is that I didn’t want to be known just for Masterchef, I wanted to use it as a platform to build a more solid foundation. For me industry respect is quite a big thing. I want to achieve things in the industry, not just a TV show, I mean obviously it was a fantastic experience, it was something that pushed me to the limits but I want to achieve greater things than that and I think we're on the road to doing that now here with Toby.
Interesting what you say there, do you think there are people that go into things like Masterchef: the Professionals just because they want to because they want to be on TV?
Absolutely I think, don’t get me wrong, when it first finished or was aired and there was a lot of interest from media and all the rest of it and it does turn your head to a certain extent and yeah we’d all love to just be a TV chef earning loads of money and not having to work the crazy hours we do but I think it’s so hard to break into that, there's so many people cooking on TV.
And equally if you look at most of those chefs they’ve all had a very successful career.
Even if you look at Gordon or anyone like that…
The ones that stick around seem to have a real solid background and they’ve achieved things and yes like you say Gordon Ramsay he earned himself three Michelin stars before any major TV, that's important to me to have that solid background, and hopefully in the future I can have a successful restaurant and be well known for that.
Well I guess that's going to lead on to pretty much my last question but Launceston Place, Masterchef: The Professionals, you’re now at Roux Parliament Square, where is this career journey going, where do you want it to go? Where is Steve Groves going to be in five years time?
I think for me the next step obviously is to take a head chef role and from there build profile, build a loyal following of people that have an interest in my food and then from there I'd obviously like to set up my own place. I'd love to run a restaurant and I know it’s something that's such a hard thing to do, so many businesses fail so that's why I'm taking these steps to try and learn every aspect of the business but essentially I want my own restaurant and I want it to be busy and successful.
And what does success look like for you in your own restaurant? Is it accolades, is it busy, is it money in the bank or is it all of those things?
I think it’s a combination of all of that. I don’t want to chase a star and not make any money and end up just throwing loads of money down the pan.
Yeah sometimes stars are for vanity aren’t they?
And profit is for sanity.
I think for me having a restaurant where I'm cooking food that I enjoy cooking and I'm proud of with customers that are happy to come in and pay for that food on a decent level then that's a goal for me.
Do you see that being in London Steve or do you want to move out to the provinces?
Ideally I'd love to end up in the country somewhere, the ideal I think that's probably every chef’s ideal that you have all your produce on your doorstep and you take things as locally as possible. I think for a head chef’s job I'd ideally like to be in London. I think the restaurant scene in London is incredible at the moment. I think there's so many good chefs it goes from all kind of levels of the industry really, you've got the cheaper bracket, you've got the mid range bracket and the top end. I think there's incredible food at all levels in London now so it’s a good place to be.
Well look thank you very much great to come in and talk to you.