NEW VIDEO: “Gone are the days of people coming in working 18 hours a day.”

The  Staff Canteen

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Oli Williamson is the next LAFONT featured chef, he talks to The Staff Canteen about The Fat Duck, the team’s work life balance, and creating a sustainable focus at a three Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Fat Duck has been a UK leader for modern culinary developments since it first opened its doors to the public in 1995.

Thanks to its ever-evolving menu spearheaded by Owner Heston Blumenthal, the restaurant gained its first Michelin star in 1999, its second in 2002 and its third in 2004, making it one of three in the United Kingdom to earn three Michelin stars.

Open Tuesday to Saturday, The Fat Duck employs approximately 59 members of staff, working 44 covers on average, completing 10 services a week.

SUSTAINABILITY AND A BETTER WORK LIFE BALANCE

Overseeing the restaurant’s operations is Head Chef, Oli Williamson, who manages the kitchen day to day.  Since taking up the role, the focus of the restaurant has changed to include an increased focus on sustainability, as well as providing a greater work life balance for staff.

“We've taken sustainability really seriously here, it's taken me a year to source the products even to replace a regular piping bag with a biodegradable one,” explained Oli.

Highlighting the extent that the restaurant goes to achieve its aim, Oli said: “We haven't ordered clingfilm all year since January, we used our last roll a couple of weeks ago, so wherever we can we're reducing plastic. We're speaking to suppliers to stop sending us polystyrene, we're trying to get them to reuse their cardboard wherever they can and not come as many times to reduce the carbon footprint wherever. Whatever small difference we can make as a restaurant we are exploring it wherever we can.”

But it’s not just the materials that’s being considered to make The Fat Duck more sustainable, there’s a greater emphasis on looking after the physical and mental welfare of the restaurant’s staff.

“We're also opening this sustainability branch to the people that work here, we're trying to get them to have a great work life balance,” explained Oli.

Describing the new benefits on offer to staff, Oli revealed: “We've got a great deal with the local gym where the company subsidies some of the costs of that gym, reduces the price to invite people to go there, and play squash, and do yoga, and take the classes or whatever they want to do. Every Saturday we have a lady who does reflexology, everyone gets a half an hour slot, so you get your massage.

“Gone are the days of people coming in working 18 hours a day, don't get me wrong it did help me grow into the chef I've become today, and I do think people need to work hard, but I also think that people need to enjoy what they do,” concludes Oli.

EXPERIENCES ABROAD

Born in Norfolk, Oli started his career working in the region before travelling to Australia after the age of 21, to gain new perspectives and different insights before coming back to the UK to work for Daniel Clifford.

“I grew up a lot, understood a different culture, which I think is really important,” explained Oli.

Commenting on his time working with Daniel Clifford, Oli described: “It was my grounding as a chef, I grew so much there, I learnt how to cook, learnt all the little details matter, which now I can apply to this role. He encouraged me to go to a three star in San Francisco, I went and did a year at Benu, which again seeing another country's culture really opens your mind to working practices, logistics management, all of those things that really make a difference.”

QUESTION EVERYTHING

Making their name as one of the most inventive restaurants in the industry, The Fat Duck has continued to push the boundaries of how we experience food through the principles of its owner Heston Blumenthal, and the talent cultivated throughout the restaurant’s history.

“I suppose the DNA of the food at The Fat Duck is question everything. It comes from the top, it comes from Heston,” explained Oli.

Commenting on how Heston teaches chefs to understand food, Oli said: “Everything we do each day, day in day out, you have to question it and that's when you are doing those jobs each day it can become repetitive, monotonous, so you have to you have to stay engaged, stay questioning what you're doing.”

Oli’s first experience with The Fat Duck was as a guest at the restaurant when he was 18 and since then its driven and influenced him in his career as a chef. “I came and sat where you're sitting now when I was 18 years old, I had no idea what was going on,” described Oli.

He added: “I was just in a dream world, and it makes me so proud to be the leader of this kitchen team here based on that.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th September 2022

NEW VIDEO: “Gone are the days of people coming in working 18 hours a day.”

IN ASSOCIATION WITH