Tony Hoyle, The Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th November 2008

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Tony Hoyle, executive pastry chef at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire is this month's featured chef....

Tony Hoyle

Executive Pastry Chef, Grove Hotel

Tony Hoyle has progressed through some of the countrys most prestigious hotels, from the Dorchester, The Savoy and finally the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire, where Tony has been Executive Pastry Chef since the operation opened in 2003. Tony operates with a team of 16 in the Pastry and is fully responsible for the operation and its forward planning, whilst always on hand to lend his wealth of experience. Tony, thank you for your time today. Tony, what made you decide you wanted to be a chef? Did you always want to be a Pastry Chef? "No, I started in the hot kitchen. I don't really know why I became a chef, my father was a chef. I think I got interested in food early on from my father and grandmother. I don't like to use it but it's a great line - my grandmother was a great cook!" At last someone who's grandmother was a great cook. (laughter) "I left school. Did a computer course for a year - totally bored out of my mind." So even when you left school, you didn't know you wanted to be a chef? "No, I took a year out - as you do." Yeap "Then did a HND course in computer programming and thought "˜oh no this is not for me' I couldn't see myself sitting at a computer for the rest of my life. So I went to work with my father. He was working in a kitchen and I went to work with him for a few days a week and I got the bug from there really." OK "Started off in a small hotel in Manchester where I'm from. And then everybody said that if you want to be a chef you have got to go to London, so that was the next step - to London. Worked in a restaurant that is still going now - called Odette's." Yes. "On the sauce for 18 months and moved down to the pastry and that's where I got the bug." It's quite different Pastry to Kitchen, isn't it? tony-hoyle"Yeah, very different. I think the main difference is that in the Pastry you have to weigh everything. For me you can be a lot more creative; a lot more artistic. It's not about just putting it on the plate. I think when you look at the Pastry kitchen in a hotel you have so much variety - you've got chocolate; plated desserts; afternoon tea - it's such a broad subject Pastry. It's not just - oh you're the Pastry Chef , so you make the pastry!" Yeah, you're making puff pastry for pies!! (Laughter) So you said you were told you had to go to London if you wanted to be a chef, do you think that is still true? Do you think the streets are still paved with gold in London? Have you got to be there to be a chef? "No, not necessarily. But if I get a CV from someone that has worked in a London hotel then for me that is a plus because of the size of operation, but it is not the be all and end all - it depends what you want to do - whether you want to work in restaurants or in hotels." So if you were 16 again would you go to London? "Yes, definitely." OK, so after Odette's, where did you go? "Then the advice was that if you want to work in Pastry you have got to go and work in a fi ve star hotel. At the time the hotel that had just opened was Le Meridian Piccadilly. It had been open about 6 months. Had a three star Michelin Chef in there doing the Oak Room, so I thought it was a good place to start. I worked there for about a week and then the Pastry Chef left which was not the best start, and I have always thought that if you are not learning why stay. That may be a bit ruthless but I was hungry to learn and impatient." So where did you go after that? "Park Lane - Grosvenor House. I was there about a year." Who was the chef there then? "Steven Goodlad." Yes, of course it would have been. "Yeah, he was there for part of the time then there was another French guy, who used to come in patent leather shoes, he never came out of the offi ce - he was one of those chefs - you know! The Grosvenor House that's where I really started getting motivated and passionate again, I worked with a three star Chef Louis Outhier doing the menus but we were just making a sweet trolley, which of course, at the time was much the style of the day. I also got a great grounding in banqueting - they don't get much bigger than the Grovsenor House. The Great Room is probably the biggest in London." They do 2000 covers there, don't they? "Yeah. We had 25-Chefs in the Pastry kitchen. Then unfortunately due to family commitments - I had to go back to Manchester. Worked in small country house hotel (Stanneylands) as a Pastry Chef - I was only 22." tony-hoyle-4Too young? "For that operation I don't think I was. It was only 4 years later and I was Pastry Chef at the Savoy. At the time it was right, it was a little country house hotel. I was there for nearly 2 years - I enjoyed it. You know a lot of the time you can learn a lot just by working; experimenting and playing around with the food." Trial and error? "Yeah, so I worked there for 18 months actually and I enjoyed it. It wasn't a big place only about 50 rooms and one restaurant and a function room - you have got to start somewhere as a Pastry Chef. What did I do next? umm, oh yeah I went to work in a Pastry unit that supplied 4 other Pastry Shops." Was this still up in Manchester? "Yeah, we were based in Harrogate, two in Leeds and one in Manchester. Which went bankrupt, which was no fault of mine!!" That was my next question! (laughter) "Where did all that Cream go!!!!" So then you went to the Savoy? "No, I went to France." OK, where about in France? "Down in a place called St Maximin, 30 miles south of Aix en Provence. By that time I was getting very interested in Pastry and where do I go next? I didn't want to go back to London - not yet. It was just spur of the moment - why don't we go to France. So we did. Got one of those magazines; flicked through; found a place; phoned them up, talked pigeon French and that was it." So you did it off your own back? "Yeah I picked up the phone spoke very little French, the owner he said "˜yes, come work in the pastry.' So I got there and it was literally - we need a menu for tonight. Talk about in at the deep end." How long were you there? "A season. Got there in February and left in October or November." The whole mentality in France about Pastry, in food in general is great. "Yeah, we were out in this little town - equivalent to a little English village and there was four Pastry shops, I would buy fresh baked baguettes in the morning and anything that I wanted." Where as here you would go to Tesco's for your Jam Do-nut. "Greggs for your Cream Bun, you know! It totally opened my eyes." It's a passion, isn't it? "It is. It's a way of life. It's a respected profession like any profession in France to do with food. You are instantly recognised. You know if you are a Pastry Chef it's quite a thing. I entered a competition in France The Pastry World Cup and the winners were on the front of the National Newspaper - you wouldn't get that in England." tony-hoyle Yeah, where as the British team are struggling to get sponsorship money. "Yeah, so from France then I came back and went to the Savoy." OK "No I didn't actually I went to The Capital and then the Savoy." Who was the Head Chef there? Philip Britain? "Yeah, He was an interesting character." He runs a fruit and veg company now doesn't he? He was Sous Chef with Brian Turner wasn't he? And Gary Rhodes was one of Turner's Sous Chefs too. "Yeah, Gary used to come round a bit. He (Philip Britain) was a fantastic cook. So I learnt quite a lot about Restaurant Pastry there, Philip was focused on fl avours and combinations. Very, very passionate guy. I didn't actually stay there that long as I got a call from the Pastry Chef at The Savoy. Derek Rooke. He phoned me up and said he was going to Australia WOULD I BE INTERESTED IN THE SAVOY ???" Ah, that was the Australian bit I remember. "So I spoke to Anton, went down to see him at the Savoy. Then I went to work there." And you were how old then? "27." 27, and there are 13 in the Pastry there? "22 in the pastry when I went there." 22! Wow. How do you adjust to that? "Not that easy to start with, it was tough. It's not about what is going on the plate. It's about how you manage other people and you know, it's like a baptism of fi re, it really was. When you've got 22 people, you know you're like everybody else you only have one pair of hands, so you have to delegate to those other pairs of hands. So it's like you say, it's about managing." By nature, it's a tough place. "Yeah." Yeah, he (Edlemann) loves it being a tough place. "I tell you what, it was the making of me as a Pastry Chef, without a doubt. I mean I struggled in the beginning but you know it's a tough place to work, but at the end of the day through the Banqueting season it's not for the faint hearted." No, no, not at all. So you needed a rest? Is that why you went to Australia? "No, no I left for the Dorchester for the first time. No I did 3 years at the Savoy, then thought it's time for a change otherwise I think I would have had a nervous breakdown the way I was going. Again, somebody approached me, can't remember who it was, but I got in there (The Dorchester). Fantastic kitchen." And that was the new kitchen at the Dorch? "Yeah, it was like chalk and cheese compared to the Savoy - escalators in the kitchen." Yeah, Fish prep inside a fridge, wasn't it? "Yeah, I mean the Pastry Kitchen was lovely." It needed the new kitchen, I mean I was there before it was done and boy was it tired "Yeah, Francois was there before and he told us some stories. Yeah, it was horrible." Who was it that was there before Mossiman? "Koffman, wasn't it?" tony-hoyleKoffman/Kaufler? I know who you mean, he wrote a book with Mossiman didn't he? "Yeah, I think so. He told us about the old days, when Mossiman was there and Francios used to fi x his bike in the Pastry!! What a character. The Dorchester was organised; everything was run like clockwork. But a little too autocratic for me, but good grounding. I learnt a lot about management there, a lot more than I did at the Savoy." The Savoy you just sink or swim, don't you? "Yeah, yeah, at the beginning yeah. But once you get into it, you try and get it running how you want it - then it's a lot easier." So where did you go after the Dorchester? "Australia. I was approached by agency who had this opportunity to do an opening of Star City Casino. Yeah, oh, why did I go to Australia?!" I'm sure that when you are doing 15/16 hours a day Australia seems quite a temping proposition, doesn't it? "No, I was not doing the long or excessive hours - I was doing like 12 hours a day." Yeah, that's a normal day. "I don't know. I suppose I went to Australia for the sun; the sea; the beach - yeah, it was huge operation. It was 14 restaurants." Wow! "5000 staff in this place, mostly for the casino." 5000 staff!! "Yeah. I had 30 in the Pastry - a massive place. The lift - you could drive a lorry into this lift!! Banqueting wasn't massive - 1200 people sit down. But the food was a totally different way of life - they like very simple. The most popular restaurant was "all you can eat buffet", like oh my god!! And also a different mentality work wise in Oz as well. You know you get guys coming to you saying "The suns shining, chef . . ." Surfs up! literally one day they are there the next day they're not!" I worked in Barbados for 4 months and we had the same thing! The guys would go sick and you'd see them water-skiing in the afternoon. (laughter) You know, how sick are you! You then came back to Hanbury Manor, is that right? "Yeah, with Robbie Glesson from The Dorchester." So, what a Dorchester connection? "Yeah, I looked at Raffles, but at the time I didn't want to go to Singapore. And I really didn't want to go back to London, couldn't face going back to London." Yeap, it's not everyone's cup of tea London. I did it for three years and I hated it. "Yeah, I think all the time I worked in London I never lived in the London, which meant two hours in; two hours out." Yeah, I love going to London now because I know I am coming home after. "Hanbury Manor was with Robbie - I enjoyed it there had a great time. A Country House Hotel, only a small brigade - only 6 in the Pastry. Well I got there and there was only one in the Pastry, so I made a few phone calls and got together a brigade of guys that had worked with me before." Yeah. "It was great, you know it was out in the country. I could see my family. I loved it." OK, and then back to the Dorch after that? "Yeah, I got a call from Henry (Brosi)." He called you directly? "I think he did. I went in and saw him and it took off from there really. Yeah, it was in a right mess when I went back. All the recipes had gone; there was no organisation; there was about 8 people in the Pastry and there should have been 16!" Tough to start with? "Well, you know when you work in big hotels if you have got the staff, you can walk into any kitchen and get it the way you want it within a very short period of time." Yeah. "You know, if you have got all the back up you need - you've got the suppliers; the equipment then it's not too diffi cult. Yeah, the second time around at the Dorchester was very, very enjoyable." OK. " Henry was a really easy guy to work for, he appreciated what you did and I was left just to get on with it." So how did the Grove come about? "Fred Tobin." He got the Royal Yacht, didn't he? "Yeah, he phone me up; he knew I lived in this part of the world. Five miles down the road, came and had a look; thought Wow, what a place this is going to be and that was it. And it meant I could get on my bike down the canal - about a 20 minute journey rather than an hour and a half every day." So you have been here 4 years? "Getting on for 4 years, yeah." 13 people in the Pastry? "Yeah, we started with 6 and it's just gradually grown with the business. Like any new hotel the business has grown. So now it's on a par, if not bigger than the Dorchester or Savoy." OK, now as a Pastry Chef, Tony, if some one sends a CV into you - what are you looking for? "Depends on the position - for a Commis you don't want too much - the right qualifi cations; ideally minimum of 12 months in somewhere decent or even if they have just come out of college, that's even better." Do you have apprentices here? "Yeah, we have an Apprentice. She's doing a Pastry Scholarship at Westminster. 2 year course. For a Chef de Partie position - I'd be looking for somebody with 5 star experience; a good background in restaurant and banqueting - especially for here; good all round knowledge of chocolate; ice cream; veiniosserie not so much bread because the bakers do that." And what about when you get them here for an interview, what are you looking for then? "They've got to have passion." So you are looking for someone who is keen, motivated, maybe knows a bit about the property? "Yeah, that's the first thing I always ask them, what do you know about the Grove?" Yeah. "And if they don't know anything, then that's a disaster. You know, when I go and look at a job I want to know everything about the place." Yes, of course you do. "I have people who turn up and they know nothing about the place. Obviously, if it's people from abroad, which we do get a lot of, as long as they have looked at the website and done a bit of research then that's different." Absolutely, I think with Commis' these days, they don't have to have an extensive CV, they haven't been in the industry long enough, but what they need is enthusiasm, passion and be able to show you that at an interview. "Yeah, and we can teach them the rest. They have got to want to learn because they have so much to learn. A lot of the time people come in and they think it's a little country house hotel and they look at it and they think - god this is too big. We are not a country house hotel; it's a big operation - a 5 star operation; we're equivalent to a 5 star London hotel." Absolutely. Are you red star here? "Yeah, and when you come to work here you have to understand the concept of 5 star deluxe. You know there is a big difference between 4 star, 5 star and 5 star deluxe. We are basically at the very top end - whatever the customer wants the customer gets." Yeap, "We provide that service and provide it in a unique way. We are a private hotel. You get the support you want; you get the staff that you need and we work and produce a great product." Sure, OK so if you were 16 all over again - what would you do? Would you look to do an Apprenticeship? Would you look to spend 2 years in college? If you could give some advice to a 16 year old wanting to become a Pastry Chef, what would you say to them? "Do an Apprenticeship." An apprenticeship, what in a hotel, somewhere like the Grove? "If you are fixed on being a Pastry Chef then don't do a general catering course because you are going to learn how to make beds!" So would you say to someone specialise in Pastry straight away? Or start as a Chef and then choose? "It depends whether they have got an idea of what they want to be. If they want to be a Pastry Chef then yes, if they defi nitely know they are going to be a Pastry Chef then, specialise straight away. But there isn't many people who come to me at that age knowing they want to be a Pastry Chef." OK "Yes, do an Apprenticeship at a good quality place, where you know you are going to learn all the basics and get a good grounding. You also need to have a clear idea of where you want to go, you know once I was in Pastry I knew I wanted to be a Pastry Chef in a 5 star hotel. Give yourself a goal and then work towards it. When you come into the industry at 16 or 18 you don't have a clue where you want to go, I was the same. They don't get information when they are at college." No absolutely. "You need to choose a good hotel or restaurant - there are a few like Le Manior. Somewhere where you will get a good grounding; you are going to learn everything: the bread, contemporary chocolate. Sometimes you get chefs that can't even do the basics. The trouble is there are so few places that do those sort of things now." Yes, we are loosing those skills. "Like my guys, when they leave they say "where can I go next, Chef?" and you have to think about that now. You can probably count on one hand the places that are worth going to work for; where you can continue to learn. Obviously you've got your Michelin star restaurants, which you need to do if you want to be a Pastry Chef. Hotel wise, there aren't many hotels that have got an in house dining room in them and still produce everything in house as apposed to buying things in." Tony, thank you very much for your time. It's been good to talk to you. "Pleasure."

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th November 2008

Tony Hoyle, The Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire

IN ASSOCIATION WITH