Kevin Bonus, senior sous chef at Marcus Eaves' Pied a Terre

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th July 2014

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  Print       Kevin Bonus is senior sous chef at Marcus Eaves’ Michelin-starred Pied a Terre. After growing up in South Africa, Kevin first moved to the UK in 2009. He worked at Andrew McLeish’s Michelin starred Chapter One in Kent before moving on to become a chef de partie at Pied a Terre in 2012. Last year he made his first step up to a senior sous chef position. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out how he’s doing.    How did you first get into cooking as a profession? I grew up in South Africa in a small town called Port Elizabeth which is eight hours from Cape Town. My parents wanted me to study electrical engineering. The turning point came when I had to make the decision how I wanted to spend the rest of my life and I decided that I wanted to be cooking rather than sat behind a desk. I did my equivalent of City and Guilds at a private college called Valley of a Thousand Hills in a nice little peaceful area in Durban and I won a bursary to study pastry as well. Did you originally think of pursuing a career as a pastry chef? My wife’s a pastry chef so I did think about it and before taking this job at Pied a Terre I was going to go into pastry full time. But I still get a lot of input into the pastry here and one of the desserts that’s been on the menu for a year is one of mine so I still keep my hand in! How did you first come into contact with Marcus and Pied a Terre? After two and half a years with Andrew McLeish at Chapter One I thought I needed to move on so I met up with Marcus for a trial and I’ve been here two years now. I took a chef de partie position and I went right back to the garnish again just to learn everything from the bottom up. Three months later I had progressed onto the meat. I spent five months on the meat then I was on the pass with Marcus. It was one of those things where you put your head down and just fly past people. After working on the pass I kind of did everything backwards – I did the pastry, the larder, the canapés and so on. Even now I have no section per se; I work one day on the fish, one day on the meat, then I’m on the sauce and the pass covering Marcus’ days off, so I’m kind of a busy body! Would it be fair to say that Marcus saw something in you and started grooming you for the sous chef position right from the start? Yes I guess he did spot something, he worked with me and helped me loads. When you’re a young chef trying to progress sometimes you fall short or you don’t hit the mark. You might be on the edge of tears, so frustrated things aren’t going your way but he’ll come over and talk to you about it, try to help you to resolve the issues and push forward in a positive way. When I first started Marcus’ sous chef (Phil) had been with him for three years and had worked with Shane Osborn. I think he spotted something in me as well, we had a few chats, he’d say if I stayed with the company there’d be great opportunities for me.  At the time Marcus had a junior sous chef but he wasn’t quite hitting the mark so I just worked hard and pushed past him really. How was the step up to senior sous when you made it last year? It was quite daunting and I remember some hard nights and some services that were incredibly tough. When you take the step up it’s also a step up in expectations.  One minute your a senior Chef de Partie where everything you do is fine and your not being picked up on anything then suddenly you’re expected to do so much more; that was the hardest part, having to keep an eye everyone else and then find enough time to put into my own work. Do you feel you’ve settled into it now after a year? I’m settling down to it but the kitchen’s always changing, were always evolving.  The kitchen team is also changing. We have a solid team but naturally there comes a time when people need to move on so one minute you can train a chef on a section and the next you will move on and train someone else on another, which is great, it keeps you on your toes! What do you consider the most challenging aspect of the job; is it still the balancing act between your own work and watching other people?Monkfish with Cracked Wheat and Blackened Spices. I think the hardest now is working with people who don’t share the same general enthusiasm or passion for something. Most of the young guys that come in are terrific and so enthusiastic.  They just want to progress and move forward in their career, and then there is one or two that come in the industry who just believe it’s owed to them. So I find that’s the hardest part, you can’t change their perception of things, finding guys with the right attitude can be hard at times. Marcus Eaves   Is that something you try to tackle through training and nurturing the young talent you have? We definitely concentrate on that. When we have a young chef who has a little spark that we feel we could work with, Marcus will sometimes get them working opposite the pass and helping him dress on. During this time they’ll learn a lot about the system, how it works and then, when they’re ready we’ll get them on a section. It’s very rewarding to see a young chef come through and do well so we do spend a lot of time on them. There’s quite a tradition at Pied a Terre of sous chefs stepping up to take the head chef role; is that something you could see yourself doing one day? Cured Loche Duart Salmon with Wasabi Mayonnaise, Asparagus and Chervil The honest truth is I love South Africa so I see myself returning there in the near future and with my wife being a chef as well, we’d like to start something of our own there; we’d like to do our own boutique patisserie; just something for the passion and the love of it. So you’d fulfil that ambition of being a full time pastry chef? Exactly, we’d both be doing it and based on the success of that, I’ve always been intrigued by having a small chef’s table. Fine dining doesn’t work in South Africa; you can count the restaurants on one hand that have been successful at doing that, so it would have to be a very informal setting, maybe with a few couches, almost like a lounge environment with a chef’s table and a bar out the front and the boutique patisserie by day. We’ll take it as it comes but the patisserie would definitely be the focus to start with. All photos courtesy of John Arandhara-Blackwell.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th July 2014

Kevin Bonus, senior sous chef at Marcus Eaves' Pied a Terre