Peter Fuchs, culinary director, Celtic Manor and ICC Wales

The  Staff Canteen

In 1999, Peter Fuchs moved to Wales to oversee a 20 bedroom extension and the installation of new kitchens at Newport's Celtic Manor.

Since then, he has travelled the world, spending several years in Saudi Arabia, where he oversaw seven restaurants - and, on one occasion, catered for 3,000 people in one sitting - and Greece, where he directed five hotels for one of his former employers.

But, he said, “Celtic Manor was always in my heart. It was somewhere written in the stars that I would come back here."  

    And, seven years ago, the prodigal chef returned. Now set to launch the International Convention Centre, Europe's largest conference hall, the veteran culinary director told The Staff Canteen about what makes running kitchens at scale so different from what we traditionally expect from a chef. 

    ICC Wales exteriorWhat does a culinary director do? 

    Peter's motto? "The bigger the better," he laughed.

    The new convention centre will have a 1,200 square meter kitchen and enough room to feed 5,000 people at once - no small feat.

    But this doesn't intimidate Peter and his team, who, since he returned to Celtic Manor, have  catered for more than 4,000 people for the 2014 NATO summit and welcomed over 50,000 spectators on every day of the 2010 Ryder Cup.

    He said he feels very fortunate to have been given the freedom to dictate everything from the architecture and the design of the kitchen to the installation of the equipment and the oversight of the team.

    “Let’s put it this way, it’s not your average convention centre.”

    This is not to say that Peter isn’t a chef in the conventional sense – he has overseen many kitchens over the years, but he is also responsible for design and managing large teams of chefs – nearing 150 at times – often blurring the lines between F&B and culinary direction.

    "I look after the money, the budgets, the payrolls, I oversee development for new restaurants, I choose the crockery."

    "Yes I still run the kitchen, but there’s so much more to do than just putting the food out.”

    What skills do you need to become a culinary director?WICC exterior5

    Asked what it takes to be a successful culinary director, he explained that being open to criticism is key, because there's so much at stake every time a decision needs to be made. “It doesn’t work everywhere and it doesn’t work for everybody.”

    Peter said he has been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who taught him computer skills: “I can do a spreadsheet an accountant wouldn’t be able to do,” he joked.

    “I can get my numbers right. I can spend three million pounds on food every year and I’ve got to justify that. I’ve got to make sure that the money is where it should be and that they don’t overspend. I do the budgets for the kitchens - we have eleven kitchens here, I have a team of ninety chefs - so you’ve got to have your wits about in terms of making sure the right people are in the right jobs.”

    However, Peter denies having any inherent talent that make him more suited to the job than anyone else, explaining that he learnt everything he knows on the job. 

    “Yes, you’ve got to know your maths, you’ve got to know your writing, but I don’t have any special skills, I left school when I was fifteen, I started training when I was fifteen.”

    Peter loves being a chef, and said the way his career progressed was totally natural.

    “I’m a chef at heart and I’ll always be a chef at heart.”

    What will the International Convention Centre be like?

    The chef said he is "very excited" about his kitchen at ICC, which will be filled with the latest combi ovens, countertop units, induction hobs and massive fridges to cater for all kinds of events. His day-to-day gruel is likely to be spent checking food quality and hygiene, working alongside the centre's director to plan future events. 

    The food at ICC will, where possible, be sourced locally, and fall in line with delegate expectations in terms of sustainability and health. The centre will also try to recruit as much Welsh staff. 

    "I know each supplier personally and keep in touch with all of them; we tend not to change our suppliers," he said. 

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    The  Staff Canteen

    The Staff Canteen

    Editor 7th March 2019

    Peter Fuchs, culinary director, Celtic Manor and ICC Wales