“I invest my time into developing a full team” - Orson Vergnaud at Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay

The Staff Canteen

In the bustling culinary world, restaurants often focus solely on refining their menu to perfection, but Michelin-starred restaurant Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay under the leadership of head chef Orson Vergnaud, adopts a unique strategy that places equal importance on team development and gastronomic innovation.

Named after the prestigious Pomerol wine estate in Bordeaux, which produces highly sought-after wine. Pétrus opened its doors in its current location on Kinnerton Street in 2010. The restaurant earned its first Michelin star in 2011 and has successfully retained it every year since. In recent years this has been under the guidance of Orson Vergnaud, who became head chef in 2022.

“My relationship with Gordon has evolved a lot during the past two and a half years,” Orson explains. "In the beginning it was a much closer relation where we talked a lot about the food and the DNA of Pétrus. We exchanged lots of ideas. “After a while, as we started to get very positive feedback from the guests and everything was working well,” he continues. “So the trust built between Gordon and I. 

Today, Orson’s role extends well beyond crafting exquisite dishes. “As a head chef, my role is to look after all the kitchen and all the chefs. I’m developing all the menus and doing all the ordering, but I'm also deeply involved in staff training and financial management,” Orson explains. This holistic approach ensures that while the food remains the priority, the team's growth and cohesion are never sidelined.

NURTURING YOUNG TALENT

The restaurant’s commitment to nurturing young talent is particularly noteworthy. “Most of my staff are fresh out of school. Rather than just building my kitchen with skilled people, I take in younger people and invest my time into them to develop a full team,” says Orson.

Collaboration with educational institutions is a key part of Pétrus’ strategy to foster new talent. Orson is actively involved with local colleges, offering students the chance to experience the high-pressure environment of a Michelin-starred restaurant. “I started to work with Suffolk College. We had grad students spend a week here, and I’m going to the college for two days to do some classes with the kids there at different levels,” he shares.

The training at Pétrus goes beyond technical skills; it builds character and teamwork. “The most important thing is your attitude. If you can learn with the right attitude, then you’ll be good.” Orson asserts, highlighting the importance of soft skills in the culinary industry.

In the face of challenging times in the hospitality sector, characterised by escalating food costs, a decrease in dining out, and staff turnover due to demands for higher wages and better work-life balance, Orson remains optimistic about his team's stability. “I believe staff-wise I have always been okay, I've had my team for a very long time," he says confidently. Orson’s strategy focuses not only on cultivating a skilled workforce from the ground up but also instilling a strong sense of loyalty and among the team members.

"They are obviously going to learn about food, techniques and flavours,” says Orson. “But I believe you can do this in a lot of kitchens. What you cannot do in a lot of kitchens is learn how to be a real team, how to work together, how to have a ‘family’ you can really rely on.”

Pétrus is open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday lunch and dinner. “We have 16 chefs and two Kitchen Porters who are currently doing eight shifts, three double shifts and two single shifts, which I think is not bad for a Michelin-starred restaurant,” Orson states.

Pétrus’ FOOD CULTURE

This ethos of comprehensive development resonates through every aspect of the restaurant. The approach to staff development parallels the innovation in the kitchen, where Orson blends traditional French techniques with modern culinary practices to cater to contemporary tastes. “I describe the food culture at Pétrus today as traditional yet modern French food and French technique,” he notes, emphasising his goal to evolve classic French cuisine while preserving its classical roots.

“If you come for dinner at Pétrus, you will get the best produce on a well-balanced menu,” Orson describes. “But service here is equally important. You will get beautiful plates and glasses as well as great service."

Pétrus’ General Manager, Matteo Baccanelli and the front of house team, consisting of 16 staff, have the mission to make the guests feel at home. “Whether they have been in a Michelin-starred restaurant before or not, we want people to come to Pétrus and feel special,” Orson explains.

Pétrus’ dedication to excellence is recognised not just in its Michelin star but also in the loyalty and satisfaction of both its team and guests. Orson believes that the true measure of success is the stability and happiness of his team. “For me, success is also about having a stable team, and staff who want to carry on their careers with me,” he reflects. 

In an industry often marred by high turnover and burnout, Pétrus stands out as a beacon of sustainable success—where the development of each team member is as celebrated as the culinary masterpieces they help create.

 

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st May 2024

“I invest my time into developing a full team” - Orson Vergnaud at Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay