Phil Fanning Head Chef Paris House

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2011
Phil Fanning is the head chef of Bedford based Michelin star restaurant Paris House. There he works under the leadership of Alan Murchison but, as head chef, Phil is responsible for the day-to-day running of the restaurant. Phil Fanning is considered to be one of the brightest young culinary talents in Britain. He has an impressive arsenal of nouveau techniques under his belt alongside youthful imagination and enthusiasm to really excite the pallet. It has been our pleasure and privilege to speak to the man himself. Phil talk us through your daily role at Paris House, your title, your responsibilities, number of people in your team, give us an overview of what you do there at Paris House? There's myself plus seven chefs and six front of house. My title is Head Chef but I am also a Head of business. This means I am responsible for the day to day operation of the company but I do this whilst running the Kitchen. Is that just kitchen or front of house as well? Greg Bluzat is my Restaurant Manager and he looks after the Front of house team but fundamentally the buck stops with me. As Head of Business I meet regularly with the board of 10in8 to ensure we are going in the right direction. How does it work then does Alan and the board set you a target, food costs, beverage costs and then you report back on a monthly basis? Something along those lines. As Heads of Business we are being involved more and more in the budgeting process the more we learn about the inner workings of the company the more accurately we can control our individual restaurants. Being so closely involved with these figures means I can confidently take the product and food forward. You say taking the food forward I mean you've been very successful, you've got a Michelin star in the first 11 months of trading. The star has come so quickly because Paris House is part of a brilliant company that has layer upon layer of support. We wouldn't have been able to achieve it if we hadn't received the support from the 10in8 team, like holiday cover from our brothers and sisters at L'ortolan and la Becasse or the IT and marketing support provided by head office. You were sous chef over at L'Ortolan like the hub I guess of the whole 10 in 8 empire.  How do you feel you've developed and improved as a manager since taking on Paris House I've come along way. Paris House has been a massive challenge and a baptism in fire. Al is a brilliant boss he likes to dangle you in the fire just enough that you're learning as quickly as you possibly can but doesn't let you get burnt, too badly........ So was it a sink or swim scenario? Yeah it felt like it. But in a structured way. Exactly, a structured sink or swim situation. So you're picking up what you need to know as quickly as you need to know it but being given enough room to learn from your own mistakes. It's been an incredible learning curve, it's an incredible journey for you what's been your single biggest challenge since taking on Paris House, and that can be front of house, back of house anything? I think learning who's right and who's not. Give us an example of that? Choosing the best person for the job and not settling for the first because you are under pressure. Learning the skill of reading somebody in an interview environment has been the most difficult to get right. Finding key staff is a massive skill and it's what determines a good business from a bad business. It's the people that are in it. Very true. So how have you adapted to that then Phil is there anything you do to try and determine or understand who the right person for the team is? A couple of days of working trial is invaluable. In that time you get to see most of the sides of a person. I like to get everyone who's on interview in the kitchen to cook me a dish, I find this is a really good indicator of somebodies ability. It instantly applies pressure and  time constraints, it test the palette and creativity but most of all it shows you how well a person can cook. So once you've got those people then obviously it's paramount then to hold onto them and train them so how big a philosophy and how big an emphasis do you put into training and development of your team? As a company we are putting a lot of thought into it because we know that it is  essential for us to go forwards. We are trying to put in place the structure needed to be able to provide regular training for all the staff. I believe that it  is the most important benefit and the most powerful tool for staff retention. Yeah In terms of you, you were sous chef over at L'Ortolan you're now head chef, Michelin star restaurant with lots of management opportunities, training opportunities for you, personal development opportunities but where does Phil Fanning want to be in five years' time? What do you hope to extract from this experience? Is it to take on more properties with Alan? Is it to go out on your own? Where do you hope it'll lead you personally? The opportunities that we get within 10 in 8 to understand business is in my opinion are second to none. I'm a 28 year old, with one and a half years worth  experience as a head chef. I am currently learning more about business and all the things that give me the potential to be a successful chef than I could get anywhere else so I'm going to stick with 10 in 8 for as long as it takes to realise my potential within this company. I wish to"¦ But once you've got there and I'm not looking for a scoop or anything like that Phil, I mean there's going to come a point where five years' time  ten years' time you're 38 whatever are you going to want to be having your own group of restaurants I mean do you hope this experience leads to that? Do you have a  five/ten year plan? I understand that you're learning and like you say, you are relatively young and it's a massive learning curve and there's a lot to learn but I guess it's kind of like what is that end Goal? Where does Phil Fanning hang his hat and say, "Ten years' time that's me that's what I want to be?" Hope fully I'll end up with a mini empire, maybe five or six different catering  businesses. Not so big that I don't have time to look after the family but big enough that I don't have to worry about money. Nothing wrong with all those things. As a chef I want to have overall success and to achieve the highest accolades that I can physically achieve, but bigger than that I want to try and be remembered for a positive input into the industry for its direction in the future. Okay. Make it more"¦ More accessible, more enjoyable"¦ More sensible. more sensible? I think as a whole we work too hard for too little. I think it is going to take a concerted effort from everyone to change that, but I don't see why it isn't possible to have a more fair working environment that is more in line with other industries but still maintains its passion. So would you see yourself doing that with a chef's hat on then or would you see yourself doing that as a"¦ Yeah, I'm a chef, always have been and always will be but hopefully I can do this as an employer. Well look I wish you every success. Thank you. Thanks for your time. You've done incredible"¦this is going to sound awfully patronising, you've done incredibly well, Acorn winner, Michelin star winner, 28 years' old, head chef, phenomenal. Thank you.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2011

Phil Fanning Head Chef Paris House