Joo Won, Galvin at Windows, London Hilton on Park Lane

The Staff Canteen

Joo Won is the head chef of Galvin at Windows restaurant in London.

He has an extremely close relationship with chef patron Chris Galvin who he first met over 15 years ago when working together at the Orrery. Joo has high hopes that he can rise through the ranks in Galvin’s London based restaurant. Galvin at Windows offers breath-taking views of London from the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane with seasonally inspired modern French cuisine. It is a perfect restaurant for any memorable occasion with such an elegant backdrop. Today, The Staff Canteen speaks to the man who makes everything tick behind the scenes.

As senior sous chef at Galvin at Windows what areas of responsibility do you have?

My main role is working with our head chef André Garrett and Chris Galvin to ensure that we meet and maintain the standards they set for windows, whether it’s the menu, kitchen systems, recipes that we have in place or any tasks that is requested by André Garrett.

I make sure all those are kept and maintained each day and that the team are working to those standards I do the orders each day, and just really ensure that any request is carried down to the other sous chefs, sent down to each section and right down through the team to the commis chef, apprentice. Even in Andre Garret’s absent, I make sure that the kitchen is running smoothly. That's my main role here.

How do you feel you have developed as a person, a manager and a chef in that time?

I’ve learnt a lot, and I’m still learning every day, and not just about the cooking or creating of menus but much more than that, but I’m learning about managing people and managing the team, maintaining and setting the standards.

It is quite challenging. It’s not easy. It’s important for me to encourage others in the team and develop their ideas, and get the maximum potential out of themselves not only for our business but also for the individuals and their future  So it’s always challenging, but very exciting.

And in the two years that you've been here what has been your single biggest challenge do you feel?

The most challenging part is to keep the standards that we set here at the restaurant.  It is the most challenging thing that we do each day, especially as the senior sous it’s my role to ensure that we exceed what our customers are expecting when they eat with us and the quality stays same.

I guess that's the thing isn’t it when you have a Michelin star you've got a certain standard and you must make sure that every single day you hit that level

Always. We have a star so it’s very important that we maintain that level with everything that we do, each day and look to always improve on that success.

Joo tell us how you work with André is it collaborative? Do you both work together? Does André come up with an idea and he’ll say to you, “Can you implement it?” or do you work together?

Andre, me and other sous chefs, all come up with ideas for the menus thinking about the different seasonal product and new product from the markets which are important. After we have worked on the dish, we share the ideas we have we work on combinations on the flavours, texture and practical possibilities for busy service which is important. We may re-shape the dish until we are satisfied and only then does it go on the menu .Of course all the dish need to be tasted and finalised by Andre Garett.

And what’s the most frustrating thing working with André? Does he change his mind every two minutes?

Oh he does yes of course, “I want this,” and the next day he says, “Oh maybe not,” so yes he often changes his mind…

That's the creative process isn’t it?

Yes it is, even he changes his ideas,It’s not really a problem. It teaches me how to create. I’m always happily to accept all Andre’s different ideas and changes as I’m always looking for those possibilities.  I can't say no to a good idea, I know Andre’s style of cooking, I know his personality and it used to be very hard when I started working with him, he used to be a very, very hard man and very fiery but now he becomes a lot calmer. He is still hard but he finds a different way to come on the line. There's a lot of different ways to make the team understand where is he coming from without him yelling, 

Last but my no means least then Joo where do you want to be in five years’ time? Where is this part of your career path going to take you? Is it your own restaurant or maybe something with the Galvins? Where do you want to be in five years?

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s my business or someone else’s business I want to take charge of the whole kitchen, I want to put my ideas in practice, I want to put my skill on show, so I want to see something where everything is me. In five years’ time hopefully that happens. I'm not sure whether it will be in Galvin’s restaurant or somewhere.

Do you want to be at Michelin star level or do you want a different style of restaurant?

I want the challenge for Michelin star level, yes, that’s the level I’m working very hard at now, and where I want to continue. 

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th December 2012

Joo Won, Galvin at Windows, London Hilton on Park Lane