Peter Gray, head chef, The Hind's Head

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st November 2018

Peter Gray is head chef of Heston Blumenthal's Michelin starred restaurant, The Hind’s Head in Bray.

Peter Gray has worked in a diverse range of roles in his cheffing career so far. From the kitchens at Juniper with Paul Kitching to chalets in the French Alps, he joined The Hind's Head in 2013 and worked his way up to the head chef position. 

The Staff Canteen spoke to Peter about what it's like to run a Heston restaurant, how he uses social media professionally and working on Christmas menus in April!

Chicken ham and leak pie
Chicken, ham and leek pie

What inspired you to become a chef?

My parents instilled a hard working ethos in me from an early age so I was always looking for a challenge. Starting my career as a KP I loved the environment of the kitchen, the energy, focus, precision and creativity of the chefs around me inspired me. There is always something new to see and learn so I am still challenged every day and the possibilities are endless.

Where have you worked to date so far and in which roles?

I started as a kitchen porter at Middlethorpe Hall on the outskirts of York, before becoming a commis chef there. I worked my way up to become chef de partie there over two years. I then relocated to Manchester and worked with Paul Kitching at Juniper in Altricham, which held a Michelin star at the time. Then I spent a short time co-running the kitchen of a country gastropub in Bilborough, Yorkshire. In 2007, I moved down south to work at Adam Simmons at Danesfield House. After that I completed three ski seasons and spent some time abroad as a private chef before joining The Hinds Head in 2013.

What was it like working for Paul Kitching?

I absolutely loved it because I had come from a hotel environment to a very small restaurant – it was like a small family. Paul was very good to me and really looked after me. I used to spend a lot of my days off with him as well, learning as much as I could. He ran a tight kitchen – everything very well organised and clean. For me it was unusual and exciting: he would put a lemon tart with salmon, for example – his combinations were quirky and he was a true inspiration. The way I saw him all those years ago, helped form who I am as a chef today.

What did you learn working with Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House and what would you say were the main differences?

They are very different people and I have huge respect for both of them. Adam also ran a tight ship but had a different approach – he is very classically French trained and kept within those confinements. I learnt a lot from him – especially how important it is to spend as much time in the kitchen as possible to become the best chef I can be.

Where did you go to work abroad and what did you learn during your time there?

Downstairs restaurant
Downstairs Restaurant

I’ve worked in Spain, Greece and the French Alps. I learnt that, even though it was fun and the money was great, I really missed being in an kitchen environment with a team.

How did you initially get the job at The Hind’s Head?

I’ve always been fascinated with Heston’s work and the opportunity arose to apply for a role in the kitchen, which I went for and had the privilege of being offered. 

Tell us about your role and daily responsibilities at The Hind’s Head.

I have team of 15 chefs, so there’s a lot to do! As well as day to day running of a kitchen, which operates seven days a week, a large part of my role also includes forward planning for upcoming events and seasons – for example, we start the ball rolling on Christmas in April. Alongside the daily responsibilities my main overall focus is making sure we are producing the best possible product from the kitchen in line with our ethos. 

Info bar

Dream restaurant -                                                    A relaxed, family run bistro serving tasty food in the French Alps. Ski in, ski out for staff and guests during winter, during the hot summers, lots of outdoor barbecues and sunsets. 

Dream brigade:                                                           Sous chef - Micky Flanagan, keeping everyone busy

Larder - Peter Kay and John Bishop

Fish - Jimmy Carr

Meat - John Richardson

Pastry - Jason Manford and Paul Chowdhry

What is it like working with Heston/for a Heston restaurant?

Getting to work with a chef like Heston is like nothing else – it’s a great collaboration, a real honour to work with someone like that. We incorporate as much of his ethos as possible in everything we do.

How much input do you have in the menu/dish development?

A huge amount. I work closely with my team and Ashley Palmer-Watts to develop new dishes throughout the year to reflect the seasons.

Do you have a favourite dish on the menu?

I love them all! If I had to choose one, it would be the oxtail and kidney pudding. Classic British: technical simplicity on a plate.

A great take on the original steak and kidney – real showmanship of Heston’s magic.

There’s a lot of talk in the industry at the moment about chefs on social media. Do you keep an eye on what

Scotch egg
Scotch Egg

your brigade are posting? Have you ever had to advise them about social media use?

It’s a tricky one. Social media is there to express ourselves and be true to our own creativity so I would hate to stifle that for any of my chefs., However, obviously if they posted something that didn’t reflect the restaurant in a good light I would say something but luckily that’s not ever happened yet. I have a fantastic team who are all incredibly proud to work here so I can’t imagine this ever being an issue.

What would your advice be for a young chef looking to achieve the same level of success as you?

Work hard, don’t rush, learn your craft, read books and enjoy what you do.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m concentrating on putting everything I have into my role as head chef at The Hind’s Head.

 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st November 2018

Peter Gray, head chef, The Hind's Head