Interview With Katie McKay at Le Manoir

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 26th November 2010
Katie, give us a brief outline of your role, here at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons. I'm a Demi Chef. Did you join as a Demi Chef? No, I started as an apprentice when I was 17.  I thought I was going to be here on a three year apprenticeship but I'm just coming up to three years now and I got promoted up to Commis, then promoted up to Demi Chef. Fantastic.  So you have finished your apprenticeship now? In October 2010 I finish. WOW, so they have made you a Demi Chef even though you are still on an apprenticeship? Yes. Brilliant.  Well done, congratulations. Thank you.  As part of my apprenticeship I have to do six months on each section and to move off a section you have to be able to show that you can run it.  And now I am on my last section, which is meat. OK, your apprenticeship is obviously predominately full time here? Yes. How many days do you go to college? One day? No, I don't go to college at all. Oh, OK. I did college before. OK.  Katie, what do you think has been the biggest learning curve for you since joining Le Manoir? Having to grow up very quickly. OK. Obviously, when you "˜re 17 - I knew it was going to be a hard kitchen, don't get me wrong, but I didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was.  But I have had to grow up very, very quickly - and I have. You mean mentally grow up? Yes, definitely.  I moved away from my parents when I was 17; that was pretty tough on me - being able to fend for yourself, really. How did Le Manoir help you with all that?  To acclimatize? So well.  The Chef (Gary Jones) is like my second dad.  Definitely.  Definitely.  And all the boys, especially when I was 17, they all took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. Having a quick look around today, I think I have seen one other girl in the kitchen.  So how difficult is it, as a female, in a predominately male environment? It's hard.  Especially being young as you can't be too sensitive and when I started I was very sensitive. Kitchens are quite masculine places, aren't they? Yes. Quite a macho culture? Yes. That is not exclusive to Le Manoir, that is in all kitchens.  There is banter; bad language ... I think that is why you need girls in the kitchen.  To calm it down a little bit. OK, so a woman's touch? Yes, definitely.  We've actually got four girls in the kitchen, so we are starting to take over! But that is still only 10%? I know, but when I started there was only two of us, so we're coming through. Is there a tendency to work harder to try and prove yourself as a female? Yes, definitely.  That is one thing I have found - never let a bloke get one over on you. But they don't want to be beaten by a girl? Exactly.  I think there is quite a lot of competition.  But I think that's why the girls love it - it's a really big challenge to have to take on quite a few blokes. And do the girls stick together?  Is it a united team? Yes, the girls definitely stick together.  (Laughter).  Don't get me wrong, we are one big team in the kitchen but, especially with me, I like to make sure the new girls are OK and they are at home, if you know what I mean. Yes.  What do you hope to get out of Le Manoir?  It must have been a big decision for you to come to somewhere like this.  You were very young when you came here, so you must be hugely dedicated and ambitious to make that decision. I am. Where do you want to be in five years time? I want to be the first female Sous Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons.  Chef's never had a female Sous Chef, so I want to be the first female Sous Chef on this pass. So, that is already your goal? Yes. Fantastic. As soon as I came here I knew that is what I wanted to do. And have you given yourself a timeline? Umm, 6 years. 6 Years? Yes, I don't think that is too bad - I'll be 23. OK.  And how old are the Sous Chefs now? 23 - 25. Carl's a little bit older, but he is Head Chef. What has been your biggest challenge, so far? Having to work with all the boys and trying to get through the hours, it might not seem a lot but you are having to fit a lot in and push yourself all the time... and moving away from home. In your three years here - what has been your greatest success?  I know it's only a short time, but what do you look back on and think "That is my proudest moment." When I got made Demi Chef de Partie.  It was just before Christmas and Chef called everyone onto the pass and I was a little bit worried about service; I wasn't sure if I was set; I was a bit grumpy because we had got called onto the pass and I just sat there; arms folded thinking "Oh God, I've got so much to do!" and I just saw this envelope on the pass ... and it had my name on it.  He just said that I had been the "best lad" and "she pushes everyday" and there was me stood at the front crying my eyes out.  But it was awesome. Fantastic.  Katie, last but by no means least, how influential is Raymond Blanc to you?  He has a huge presence here.  He is a worldwide renowned Chef. Yes, just yesterday I was working closely with him, doing his new book and I have never met someone so passionate.  However long he has been doing this for - he is still "let's do it; let's get it done" But it is a genuine passion, isn't it? Yes, definitely.  I have never met anyone who loves it so much.  He's awesome. I have been very fortunate in talking to him today and, I think, what now motives RB is seeing people like yourself and seeing all the infill-structure that he has put in place with the team and Gary, and I think what is fantastic is that he wants to share that knowledge and that experience with people like you. Yes. Katie, thank you very much. Thank you!

In these challenging times…

…the hospitality landscape has dramatically changed in the last two months, and with that our advertising revenues have all but expired, significantly impacting our business. Despite having to furlough a large portion of our staff, we are still delivering the valuable content and honest information, which hundreds of thousands of you come to The Staff Canteen for. We believe we have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs, are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector.

Your financial support means we remain independent and open to all. We were launched by a chef and remain the voice of chefs and other hospitality professionals.

We need your support to keep delivering the products and content that you love, giving you the platform to share opinions and inspiration. Every contribution whether big or small, means so much.
Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 26th November 2010

Interview With Katie McKay at Le Manoir