10 Minutes With: Dean Hoddle, Head Chef, Silverstone

The  Staff Canteen

Dean Hoddle is head chef at the Silverstone race circuit in Northamptonshire.

As chef jobs go, Dean Hoddle probably has one of the coolest, working as the head chef at Silverstone – the location for the British GP.

https://www.thestaffcanteen.com/public/js/tinymce/plugins/moxiemanager/data/files/slow cooked shoulder lamb%2C dauphinoise potato and glazed heritage carrot platted menu.JPG
slow cooked shoulder lamb,
dauphinoise potato and glazed heritage carrot 

It started when Dean was 12 and was asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. Dean came up with two options – to be a shopkeeper or to be a chef. He chose the chef route and hasn’t looked back since!

His earliest kitchen experience was in an Italian restaurant where he describes his role as ‘part pot washer, part waiter and part vegetable chef’. His head chef Paulo was an early influence for Dean.

He revealed: “His flamboyance, his love of food and of course his fast cars - it was amazing!”

At Silverstone, Dean sees famous faces coming through the door all the time.

“After this interview," he explained. "I will be doing a dinner with Mark Webber. It’s like a mecca to racing drivers and anyone who’s who in motorsport.”

Do you need to be a fan of motorsport to work at Silverstone? It certainly helps!

 Dean said: “I’ve always been a motorsport fan and had done Le Mans for five years before joining Silverstone full time. During those five years I worked at Silverstone as a freelance chef for the Grand Prix, from there, I was offered the opportunity to apply for the job - so I jumped at the chance. I mean who could turn down head chef of Silverstone?”

Dean says that there are no typical working days at Silverstone – he can find himself delivering a sandwich lunch for two one day and feeding 5000 people the next.

Dean in the kitchen
Dean in the kitchen

Developing relationships with local producers remains a large part of Dean’s role and he really enjoys this aspect. He says planning is key when it comes to catering for thousands.

“We start months in advance with menu development and tastings to booking staff and ordering, so the delivery’s come in a timely fashion.

“We also organise the influx of staff before we start the mammoth task of prep. All this while still conducting a busy c and b, b2b and f and b business.”

He continued: “I remember the first Grand Prix I did just three weeks after I started at Silverstone and I was gob-smacked by the food spend. We get through so much food during a year - it’s astonishing.”

With nine kitchens situated throughout the circuit, Dean spends a lot of his time walking around to inspect the service, but also utilises technology for the times when he is at another location.

He said: “It’s quite something I can tell you - running a service feeding thousands of guests via radio.”

Inspiring the next generation of chefs is important to Dean who takes on catering students from Northampton College for work experience with successful candidates being offered a zero hours contract after completion.

He said: “This is great for me as I studied there, so it’s good to give something back.”

race day chocolate and ale cake for afternoon tea
Race day chocolate and ale cake

Dean revealed that with so many events, he has to take two weeks out at the start of the year to develop menus. 

He explained: "We look at what went well and why and what didn’t go well and why. After this, we discuss themes and then we can start creating dishes. Once we have the dishes, we discuss as a team how and what we want to make up the dish and how it will look. Next comes the development and the spec of the dish and once we are happy, we go with it. I like to encourage the team to be creative and it’s a real team effort.”

Dean describes his culinary style as British fine dining that has a ‘chic and rustic feel’ but admits he does like to dabble in all things molecular too! Seasonality is a huge part of Dean’s menu - Northampton has some incredible produce and he prides himself on forming strong relationships with his producers.

The biggest challenge for Dean is staffing and like many head chefs, he finds recruiting staff to be a hassle.

“The shortage of chefs with a good skillset is plain to see," explained Dean. "It presents a real challenge to find and develop new talent.”

He added: “Recruiting at Silverstone is very hard, because of our location. You would think it would be easy to recruit, but it’s just the opposite. The chef shortage is so real right now, and we are always looking at new incentives we could use to get the recruits in the door - it’s very tough.”

Dean believes that young chefs can really thrive in a career in corporate dining. 

He enthused: “Corporate dining is an amazing area to be in. I found it eight years ago and wish I had found it earlier. The world is your oyster - it can take you to some of the most amazing places and events around the world. Any youngster thinking of this style of catering should jump in and give it a whirl. You won’t look back that’s for sure.”

c& b dessert cart station
Dessert cart at Silverstone

With stints working at the Ryder Cup and catering for the Rolling Stone’s 50th-anniversary party, it is easy to see why this career path continues to excite Dean. He likens himself to a magpie as he is always looking for something new and exciting - whether this is a new food style, ingredient or technique.

Despite his busy schedule, Dean competed in Bake Off: The Professionals earlier this year. Whilst he didn’t win, he describes the experience as ‘amazing’. 

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it - even if we did have a disaster or two! We aren’t master pastry chefs, so to be selected to be in the final 12 was amazing. Would we go back? Yes, in a heartbeat!”

Whilst a return to the Bake-Off kitchen could be on the cards, he may not have time as Silverstone has huge expansion plans and he has his own list of goals to tick off.

He said: “I’d love to do a book and after Bake Off, the world of TV is something I would like to pursue a little more. But who knows where this ride will take me? We will have to see who gets in touch.”

By Emma Harrison


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2018

10 Minutes With: Dean Hoddle, Head Chef, Silverstone