A chef's diary with Ruth Hansom

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th January 2017

This year sees us welcome our newest blogger to The Staff Canteen. Young National Chef of the Year 2017 winner, Ruth Hansom, will be giving us a monthly insight into her life as a chef at Michelin-starred the Ritz as well as many other exciting opportunities she is set to experience in the coming year.

Find out more about Ruth in her first blog and follow the young chef’s journey with each new post – only on The Staff Canteen!

Christmas puddings in the making
Christmas puddings in the making at the Ritz

January. The time of year the hospitality industry lets out a big sigh of relief. The gradual increase of business from November that launches into fully booked every day, every service. Done. Christmas parties. Done. Christmas Dinner. Served. New Year.

Seen in with our guests. So January rolls around and generally the hospitality industry will have a quiet period. However I work at the Ritz and rarely do we encounter ‘quiet’ especially after gaining a Michelin star in October – and that’s why I love it!

I love getting up early, my head filled with MEP lists. I love my commute through London, usually by bicycle. I love my team, working among them can be tough at times but it’s always inspiring. I love setting up for service getting everything in its place. I love the butterflies I get before each and every service and that unexplainable buzz during. But most of all I love being part of making someone happy, giving them a truly unforgettable experience.

So how did this love come about? I was studying my GCSEs at school when my food tech teacher (She was amazing! She always went beyond her role and inspired me greatly – something we really need in order to attract more young people into the industry.) suggested that I enter FutureChef. A competition for under 16s ran by the Springboard Charity. I made it to the national final in 2012, held in Westminster Kingsway College and was later offered a place to study there.

I went home to the north of England after the competition on a high. It was then that I realised I wanted to be a chef. So I finished my GCSEs and that summer found myself a flat on gumtree and broke it to my mum that her baby is moving to London by herself – as you can imagine, she was a bit taken aback and I think for the first year I was down here still was!

>>> Related: Ruth Hansom from The Ritz is the first female chef to win Young National Chef of the Year

When I got to London I needed to find a job, still with a few weeks to my first day of college, I remembered I had a business card of a chef judge from the competition, Frederick Forster. I gave him a call and arranged a trial. I started working for him a day later and I will be eternally grateful to him for giving me that chance.

He is a hard task master but he embedded in me the foundations of what it takes to be a good chef. He would always ask me

The team shortly after finding out we got a Star

The Ritz team shortly after

finding out we got a Michelin star

what I was doing and what it was for. One Saturday I had been asked to prep some sea kale by my CDP. Chef came into the kitchen and asked me what it as for, but I couldn’t tell him because I hadn’t enquired. He didn’t shout, he just sent me home – for me this was worse. I remember it vividly and from then fully understood the importance of always knowing the purpose of what you’re doing and try to instil this in others.

Since then I moved to the Ritz, under John Williams. Frederick used to work here and it’s clear to see where the tough but fair thing was learnt. I finished my Royal Academy of Culinary Arts apprenticeship in June and passed with a distinction.

As competition was my way into the industry it felt natural to keep doing them, so in the past four years I tried to enter as many as possible. I think they’re great for honing skills and learning new ones, making friends and boosting confidence. My chef is supportive and always willing to help with his classic yet relevant approach.

Some competition success includes, Master Chefs of Great Britain Young Chef of the Year, Craft Guild Of Chef Graduate Awards, World Skills UK – gold medal & Euroskills – Bronze Medal, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence and perhaps the most meaningful for me Craft Guild Young National Chef Of the Year. This is because it was my forth attempt. It’s taught me never to give up on a goal and to always keep striving to better yourself. Also that I hate to lose – but who doesn’t?!? I was also the first female to win the competition which is pretty cool!

My starter from YNCOTY – Chicken Liver Parfait%2C Quince chutney%2C Cobnut Crumble%2C Pickled Chervil Root%2C Black Garlic%2C Endive.

YNCOTY semi-final

dish - Ruth Hansom's take

on Peach Melba

There are a lot less females in the industry and I think it’s definitely something that needs addressing. The stigma that it’s a male industry and that females are not going to be as capable needs to be smashed and I hope I am helping with that!

I love the banter with the guys at work but they had better be joking if they tell me I’m not as strong or equipped for the job as them! Women are not just pastry chefs and in fact our head pastry chef is male and his work amazes me every day – he’s got a lot of knowledge and is willing to teach.

Anyway, I’m writing this while on the train home for Christmas, despite it being January so I’m off for some bucks fizz, pigs in blankets and too many quality streets – the big purple ones of course!

Ruth x

Ruth Hansom is a chef at The Ritz Hotel in London. Ruth is no stranger to competitions

Ruth Hansom, Young National Chef of the Year 2017
Ruth Hansom

having competed in the Young National Chef of the Year contest twice, before winning the 2017 title. Ruth has been at the Ritz for three years where she started out as an apprentice before working her way to become a chef.

Former Springboard FutureChef winner always knew she wanted to be a chef. She was just 15 years old when she came to London and competed in the FutureChef final at Westminster Kingsway College where she later studied.
She became a Craft Guild of Chefs’ Graduate in 2014 and is regarded as ‘one to watch’ in the industry.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th January 2017

A chef's diary with Ruth Hansom