Scott Fricker, Midsummer House, Cambridge

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st March 2012
Scott Fricker is the head chef of Daniel Clifford’s Cambridge based Midsummer House. Scott began his career working for Andrew Turner at The Bentley Hotel whilst studying at Westminster Kingsway College. He then went on to be a junior sous chef at Hibiscus and had nine months at l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon before becoming head chef at Midsummer House. Midsummer House is located in the heart of the historic city and cooks to a modern focus underpinned by classical French technique. Alongside Daniel Clifford, Scott is constantly striving for culinary perfection and it is our pleasure to talk to him today. Checking the toilets and clearing snow from the paths In an interview with Scott Fricker head chef at Midsummer House, Cambridge, we find out how getting involved with the day to day running of the restaurant not only improves customer satisfaction but also means life in the kitchen makes more sense... First and foremost thank you very much for inviting us in to the wonderful Midsummer House, give us an overview of your role and your day to day responsibilities here please. Basically I look after the business when Daniel’s away and when he's here I have to make sure the maintaining and the running of the kitchen goes smoothly, make sure as soon as I get in at quarter to eight in the morning the lads have turned up, the veg comes through the door, check the veg off, make sure there's no problems. If there is I have to get straight on the phone to the suppliers and iron those problems out. After that really it’s a case of me spending the next couple of hours on the phone speaking to suppliers, getting costs down, making sure deliveries are coming in. Because we're in such a remote part of the world it’s very easy for people not to deliver to us or to miss out on something and we need to be on the case all the time. And then while I'm in the kitchen I'm going around to other sections making sure that everybody’s doing their job right. If there's any jobs that need doing, big jobs like filleting the fish or butchery, making sauces, I tend to do those a lot myself, along with Mark the junior sous. And then when Daniel comes in we normally spend a lot of time together working on new dishes, talking about making things run smoother, and really he guides me into what I should be doing right and what I'll be doing during the service calling the orders out, dressing all the plates. After lunch it’s a case of checking everybody’s done their job properly and getting them out for a break and then we go again for the dinner service and then after dinner service it’s a case of checking everyone’s fridges, making sure they’re all clean and tidy and making sure the kitchen’s spot on and getting everyone off. And that's the day to day me. Talk us through how you've progressed. You joined here as sous chef, you’re now head chef so how has your role progressed in that three years? Since I started  think I've progressed more as a person and the role’s progressed because I've shown obviously that I can cook very well, which is what Daniel’s been looking for but also that I can command a kitchen and I can run his kitchen and you can’t just drop someone into a kitchen and give them that. They need to earn that respect and I believe I've done it with chef and he's changed the role in essence by every couple of months there'll be a new aspect to my job, whether it’s making sure the GPs are correct, making sure the wage percent’s low, making sure they're a minimum. It’s a big business. It’s not just cooking food any more, it’s not making sure menus are correct, it’s making sure the garden path is clear, it’s got salt on and there's no snow on there. It’s making sure that the toilets aren’t blocked. It’s from start to finish. It’s maintaining a business and he's progressed that and put more and more on to me which has been really massive for me. It’s been a brilliant experience and a great opportunity. What’s been your biggest personal challenge in the last three years I think staff really, staff has been a massive challenge. There's about five of us and we've built up a big rapport and we've really rolled the standard. How do you keep those staff? I think we've changed our skills and our whole management style of things. You can’t get people in any more and work them to the ground, when I started cooking I used to sleep in my car, we used to go to college, we used to go and work at Michelin star restaurants, go and sleep in my car and then I'd go back and do it time and time again and I'd work myself to death. All the while I'd have a head chef or a sous chef beasting me constantly whether things were right or wrong and you didn’t know whether you were coming or going but you had that grit and determination to push on. And nowadays, I'm not saying that people don’t have it but it’s a lot harder to find staff that are willing to work these hours so we've changed in the sense that we've calmed down a lot on the way we handle mistakes and the way that staff are coming through the door we try and put our arm around them a lot more now and take them through work phase by phase. I spend a lot of the day going around, when I go section to section I like to show people exactly how things should be done. If they make a mistake a lot of the time, because human error can occur in this job, but if I'm the one showing them there's no real chance for a mistake to be made and I don’t like the fact that there's a lot of kitchens still out there that abuse people are hitting each other and things like that. It doesn’t happen here and we are a lot more relaxed the way we approach things and I think that's shown in our staff retention rate. How has your food style developed in three years? Are you starting to develop your own style or is it a combination of yours and Daniel’s? I think I've definitely got my own style of food and that's something I tend to keep more to myself than bringing here. I bring touches in here but every time we put a dish on the menu we sit down together and we’ll talk about every aspect and we work on dishes together and as far as my food has developed I went over to Japan for three months and I studied a lot on Japanese food or Asian cuisine and I'm a big fan of lightening food up, taking butters and creams out of things and we've put that aspect in here. We've lightened everything up. We use a lot more pickles and things like that, certain acids, and we try and stick to working together on dishes, so you'll never say, “Oh that's chef's dish, or that's Scott’s dish,” we work together on everything from start to finish. And chef will have an idea and he’ll throw it out there to me and he’ll see how far I can run with it but all the while he’ll have his own mind made up of what he wants. And some of the food that he comes up with is just beyond me and it’s just slightly crazy how he thinks of some of the ideas but that's what makes working with him so brilliant and it makes me push myself to change, not in a sense my style but also to change with the way trends are going and the way customers are reacting and I don’t believe between the two of us, you can sit us both down, we cook a style of food yes we do but at the same time the customers really dictate what we cook now because if customers come in and they say they like something we try to make sure that we're still cooking dishes that they’re enjoying and not stuff that's for our own ego. Last question for you then Scott you've been here three years, you've progressed from sous chef to head chef where do you want to be in five years time? Where is this part of your career going to take you? What do you hope to achieve by being the head chef at Midsummer House? Hopefully it’ll open many doors for me, I think Daniel and I we've always spoken about opening another place but… Would that be in the same sort of ilk as this? By that I mean kind of fine dining, Michelin led or a different style? I don't know, I've always cooked and worked in two star restaurants ever since I've started cooking and I think it would be very hard for me to break away from that. But, at the same time, from working here what I've learnt is it’s not all about having Michelin stars, it’s not all about having five rosettes, it’s about making money, so as long as I have a business that makes money … That ilk, I don't know I'll have to see whatever the customers in the location want. And as far as staying into running kitchens and running businesses it’s something that I'm interested in definitely but who knows what’s round the corner. Well look thank you very much for your time it’s been fantastic.  

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st March 2012

Scott Fricker, Midsummer House, Cambridge