Adam Johnson, Le Manoir, Oxford

The Staff Canteen
Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson discusses his role as Development Chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Adam Johnson

Place of work: Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Role: Development chef to Raymond Blanc

Bio: Having worked at Le Manoir for 11 years, Adam’s role as development chef to Raymond Blanc includes offsite cookery demonstrations (including all preparation, assisting on the day and sometimes presenting the demo himself), research (for interviews / TV appearances / Public speaking / Blogs), TV support (organising all aspects required  to plan, set up and assist with TV shows), project management of all offsite Gala dinners and events from menu development, recipe trials, food costings, sourcing, front of house, delivery logistics and service. Adam also does recipe creation, working alongside Chef Raymond for books/magazine publications/cookery school courses and online web recipes. Adam’s role also consists of organising and delivering food photography shoots alongside photographers and teaching: he leads courses in the cookery school on behalf of Mr Blanc and develops new courses and content.

Chef Skills

Adam Johnson takes us through his personal experiences whilst being in the Culinary Industry. These key skills that young Chefs and industry professionals learn as part of their basic training.

How long have you been in this role?

Eight and a half years and two and a half years in the main kitchen (11 years total)

What experience and how many years would someone need in order to progress to the top level of the industry?

It’s hard to put a number on this as everyone is different and each career path depends on many factors such as the personality and ambition of the individual, how supportive each of their employers is, what training is made available to them and most importantly how driven and dedicated they are.

What are your ultimate top five tips for someone looking to start a career in the hospitality sector?

1. You have to love what you do and be motivated to succeed

2. Treat others as you would like to be treated

3. Ask questions all the time, even question your own working practices

4. Take advantage of all available training, even if it’s in other departments

5. Always leave a job on good terms. The Hospitality Industry is a small one and you never know who you might need to call on for help one day

Who are the key chefs and restaurants that someone should be speaking to and trying to gain experience with?

I would recommend working somewhere that has good values, embraces the seasons and will get you hooked on food and service. It doesn’t need to have a Michelin star or be located far away. You may have a lovely Bistro, café or pub in your local area that serves honest food. Once you have somewhere like this under your belt you can then decide if you want to push harder to gain Michelin experience or not.

For me, there are many great chefs who can give you all this. Apart from Monsieur Blanc there is Bruno Loubet at the Grain store, Agnar Sverrisson at Texture and Ollie Dabbous at Dabbous to name a few. All of which have had training here at Le Manoir.

What are you looking out for on a CV or in an interview if someone was applying to work with you? 

Experienced chefs are becoming more difficult to find these days so CVs alone are always a hard way to judge someone.

At Le Manoir we invite chefs into the kitchen for two days to see how they interact with the team, see if they ask questions and have an understanding of seasonality and food.

To work as a development chef in particular you need to have a wide variety of skills apart from being able to cook to a high standard. You also need to be able to think on your feet and act fast as well as motivate others, even when you have just met them.

The development chef role with Raymond Blanc is extremely varied and you have to be able to cope with an ever-changing diary. No two days are the same. This really keeps you on your toes and you end up working in a way where if you don’t know how to do something you quickly find out and teach yourself or utilise the experience of others around you. There is constant problem solving. Our development team is quite small but you have to be able to interact with others and gain their support to achieve the high standards we aim for.

The roles involved in being a development chef for Raymond Blanc are not limited and many of them can be happening all at the same time over a short period so you have to be able to manage your time, juggle many different jobs and above all, keep calm under extreme pressure.

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Editor 16th March 2017

Adam Johnson, Le Manoir, Oxford