Simon Young Executive Chef Jumeirah Carlton Tower London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st March 2012

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

It was working as a commis chef at the young age of 15 that Simon Young found a love for cooking and hospitality. Following this, Simon built up experience at various South Coast hotels including the Metropole in Brighton before then moving on to further his experience in London and further afield. He spent two years working as the premiere sous chef at The Dorchester, on Park Lane before going on to work as the head chef of the Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street which had five restaurants and 12 private dining rooms. Since 2003 he has resided over the Jumeirah Carlton restaurant in Knightsbridge as the executive chef. He regards this as his highest achievement thus far in his career, though in 2010 he was honoured with an Honorary Fellowship. The prestigious accolade was rewarded for his work with the faculty of professional studies at Thames Valley University, putting him in the company of fellow honourees, Raymond Blanc, Michel Roux, Paul Gayler (Lanesborough Hotel) and John William (Ritz Hotel). He was also awarded with ‘Hotel Chef of the Year 250 Covers’ in 2009, at the Hotel Caveys. He continues to raise the standard of the Jumeirah Carlton’s dining standards, with his own refined and visionary cuisine, overseeing the kitchens of the renowned Rib Room, The Chinoiserie and the other food facilities at the hotel.

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Simon Young thank you, very much for inviting us in today to the Jumeirah Carlton Tower today. Give us an overview of your role as executive chef. My role is obviously overseeing the seven kitchens that we've got here at Jumeirah Carlton Tower. We have a brigade of 50 chefs, but I suppose most importantly it’s developing the product. The product could be the food product, it could be the china, it could be the cooking, what we're using to cook, very much keeping ahead of trends, looking at what’s going out on the market. I'm very fortunate in my position that I'm able to go out and eat in top restaurants and top hotels in order to assess and benchmark. Also now the Chef is a businessman, I have to control the food cost, the food cost is set by my superiors and I have to control that. I control manning. I have to control quality of opinion surveys as part of my role. It’s a long way from when you started as a cook isn’t it? It is yes. And a lot of people ask me, “Do you cook?” and I probably don’t cook as much as I'd like to. And I guess you've got a choice that you either go in as being a restaurant chef and be a little bit more limited but more refined in the food or you come to somewhere like this where it’s much more multi-outlet but it’s much more of a management role? Yes agreed. And if I was to be cooking day in, day out, then my eye would be off the ball in terms of all those things that I've just mentioned in my role. But equally I guess in an operation this size Simon what you need is key people and key operators because you’re one person, one pair of hands, you can’t do everything it’s impossible. No. You can’t You're like a conductor I guess aren’t you? Well I compared it last night funny enough to somebody I was talking to about being like a football manager and a position becomes vacant and you look out on the market and you trial these guys and then suddenly you spot a Ronaldo, you know, and we had a guy in yesterday for a trial and this guy’s a superstar.It’s quite a buzz when you bring in real quality chefs and they all contribute to the end product. Hotels are not necessarily seen as sexy any more by chefs are they because you've got Gordon (Ramsay), Marcus (Wareing), Claude (Bosi) at Hibiscus, all of these guys doing wonderful food in restaurants. Well yes agreed and not only that. If you go around London now the majority of hotels have contracted out their restaurant and I think I am one of five or six executive chefs of five star hotels that still control their restaurant. Why do you think that is? Why have hotels done that? It’s a lot easier and a lot more headache-free to charge a rent or to charge someone and say, “Okay you take over our restaurant, you give us a percentage of your profits, you pay us a rent.” It takes the headache away from the hotel operator. I could walk you around London and I think there's myself, John Williams at the Ritz that still control their own restaurant. You know the Dorchester you've got a Ducasse , you've got China Tang also. The Grosvenor House you've got Richard Corrigan, you’ve got Theo Randall in the Intercontinental. At the Berkeley you've got two great chefs, either side you've got Koffmann and you've got Marcus Wareing, all great chefs in great hotels But I guess as well when you get names like those, to a degree what it almost gives you is instant success doesn’t it? Back to the football manager in the Premiership now you buy all these players and you want to win the Premiership but if you put Marcus or Gordon in you probably know that you’re going to get a star. Yes exactly and I would imagine from the Lanesborough’s point of view they brought in Heinz Beck and they got that star and there's a certain kudos but does that star bring a 25% food cost, guaranteed. Does it bring you that payroll? Does it fill the bedrooms though? Do people come because there's a starred restaurant? I don’t think so, no. Okay. There's certainly, from a reviewer’s point of view, they can be very anti-hotel restaurants. They’re seen as stuffy aren’t they at times? They are yes. And also people don’t like walking through a hotel to go to a restaurant. Like you say they’re seen as a price barrier, expensive, stuffy. Within Jumeirah one of our guiding principles is never say no as a first response so if somebody comes into The Rib Room and they want spaghetti Bolognese then we’ll do that but at the same time I've got Ian Rudge here doing fantastic stuff with foie gras and Cornish crab etc. We are flexible. Talk us through The Rib Room Simon, a name that is steeped in history. Well The Rib Room’s been going 50 years. The Carlton Tower has been going 51 years, it was our 50th anniversary in 2011. Lots of money invested, , what’s the goal, what’s the aspiration now? Is it busy? Is it accolades? What do you want? What does the boss want? What we want is a successful restaurant that is going to give us profit, accolades are a bonus and a reputation, those three things really are our main drivers for success. Ian has a great,background, Northcote Manor, as you say, Whatley Manor, so what’s the sort of benchmark there three rosettes? Again if we achieve accolades that is great, what we are striving for is a successful business and happy customers that come back How do you think the role of the hotel executive chef has changed in the last 20 years? I mean I can remember 20 years ago someone like Mosimann in the hotel was god. You made an appointment to see him, nobody walked in the kitchen, it’s much different now isn’t it? Yes things have changed. You've got guests coming in the kitchen, you've got PR coming down to see you. Things have changed a hell of a lot and working regulations have changed a hell of a lot and, you know, we have big HR departments in the hotels now. For the better, working regulations? I believe so. My turnover of chefs here is very, very low. That's important isn’t it? It’s got to be important. Well it adds to consistency but I think that the key things for retaining staff are good pay, good uniforms, good meals on duty and reasonable hours and those four things make a hell of a difference to a commis or a chef de partie. It’s nice to hear you say pay actually Simon because 20 years ago it was you did it for dedication and the reality is no you don’t do it for dedication you’re providing a service and you need to pay someone and I think you’re right. If it was another industry, computing industry or whatever, you would get what you pay for and it’s good to see that chefs are beginning to realise now they’ve got to pay for… We certainly look at the London market rate and try to beat that and I think we probably do. But the problem is there's more chef vacancies than there are chefs aren’t there? So you need to make sure you’re attracting them, retaining them as you say. The Jumeirah tag has a big pull. People relate Jumeirah to Burj Al Arab. I mean if you look at Dubai and our properties in Dubai, we are the main hoteliers in Dubai, and we are always moving forward, we've just opened up in Abu Dhabi, we've opened recently in Frankfurt, we're just about to open in Mallorca and are venturing into Rome Anything else planned for London? Well obviously the Grosvenor House Apartments which is public knowledge now which I'm helping to set up. So no at the moment - three properties in London, Jumeirah Lowndes, Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living. So it’s a really exciting company to work for and I've been here eight years and if you’d asked me eight years ago, “How long are you going to stick around?” I wouldn’t have even imagined I'd be here eight years but it’s been the happiest eight years of my life. This hotel has put me on a pedestal and my career completely took off when I started here. The company supported me, the general manager supported me, the investment that the hotel put into me, into the kitchens, you know, a couple of years ago I went off to Cornell University in America to do a finance course. It’s good to see they’re investing. Yes. Last question for you then you've been here eight years, great success, you've just done The Rib Room what’s next for you? What’s the next five years? How do you keep motivated? Where’s the next challenge coming from? Well this year I suppose my biggest project is I'm redesigning the Chinoiserie Kitchen -  that's something to get my teeth into. I guess it’s important isn’t it to have challenges …because you could get stale, you know. We're really looking at redesigning the breakfast buffet and the cold breakfast buffet in The Rib Room again, that's quite a challenge this year which is quite exciting. I have been involved in our other hotels, a little bit for Frankfurt, a bit of Mallorca, and as we expand in Europe hopefully the company will use me to assist in the openings and obviously I'm quite heavily involved in the Grosvenor House Apartments project. But I don't know every year there's something new here, we've done so much in eight years, every kitchen has been renovated. So I don't know we’d have to think about anything big. Well look thank you for inviting us in today, it’s always lovely to come in and see a hotel chef and the different dynamics and aspects of running a hotel so thank you very, very much. Good thank you it’s been nice having you here. Thank you very, very much.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st March 2012

Simon Young Executive Chef Jumeirah Carlton Tower London

IN ASSOCIATION WITH