Ben Purton, executive chef, The Lancaster

The Staff Canteen
Ben Purton

Ben Purton discusses his role as Executive Chef at The Lancaster and his own inspirations with regards to persuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Ben Purton

Place of work: The Lancaster, London

Role: Executive Chef

Bio: Ben has worked as an Executive Chef for a number of high-profile chains in the past, with the Royal Horse guards Hotel ‘s One Twenty-One Two (recipient of two AA rosettes), Selfridges, Hyatt Regency and Goldman Sachs on his culinary CV. He was appointed as the Lancaster’s Executive Chef in October 2014, giving him responsibility for an 85-strong kitchen brigade at the hotel’s two restaurants, Island Grill and Nipa, as well as over the Lancaster’s Apprentice Scheme.

Follow Ben on Twitter: @Chefben1975

Chef Skills

Ben Purton takes us through his personal experiences whilst being in the Culinary Industry. These key skills that young Chefs and industry professionals learn as part of their basic training.

What experience and how many years in your opinion would someone need to progress to the top level of the industry?

The honest answer is that it really varies, there are some amazing success stories out there from where people started their careers at a really young age and are already up there at the top of their game within a short period of time. 

I think generally that’s not really the rule, though. If you get some good experience and some good culinary knowledge through a training organisation, whether it be a college or anywhere else, you’re probably looking at growing a position every couple of years. There’s no reason why you couldn’t be at a Sous Chef to Head Chef level within six years at an early push, probably more towards eight to ten or twelve years.

Food made by Ben Puton

Who are the key Chefs and restaurants that someone should be speaking to and trying to gain experience with?

It kind of depends on if they’ve got a bit of experience with the kind of places that they want to go to, so there are places that specialise in just in restaurants, there are people in hotels, in contract catering. I think it’s about trying to get an idea first, and I’d always send someone to really great catering colleges out there, whether it’s an open day or just popping in to see someone about that kind of stuff. 

I think in terms of individual Chefs, people like the Galvin brothers have been around a long time and have a great knowledge of the industry. They’ve got a lot of information about different things you could and couldn’t do.

The Academy of Culinary Arts and the Guild of Chefs are also great bodies to be speaking to. Once you understand the path you want to take and the experiences you want to get, then the list of people that you should be speaking to and should be asking questions of probably differs quite a lot.

What are you looking out for on a CV or in an interview if someone was applying to work with you?

We get quite a lot of CVs that don’t have much stuff on them, so a lot of the interview process is really about checking people’s attitudes, their willingness to learn, how they’re actually going to adapt and fit into their new environment and really making them understand that this is really not an easy career to come into. But you’re just trying to work out from the short period of time with them, have they got the right kind of outlook, are they looking to be progressive, will they be able to take direction very well and be able to develop. They’ve got to come in with a positive attitude from day one, otherwise they’ll struggle in this industry all the way through.

What are your ultimate top five tips for someone looking to start a career in the hospitality sector?

1. Wherever possible, get taster days and experience within the industry, it’s a great source of knowledge with people who don’t mind sharing that with people who are eager to develop when they’re young.

2. I would always advise people to go for a trial shift, but I’ve always given advice to people to say stay as long as possible in these establishments, before you decide that’s the place you want to be because you want to make sure they’re able to give you all the things you need and a great foundation to your career.

3. Make sure you’ve got one eye on your studying – some people think they can come into this industry and just become a great Chef without needing to do the academic side. It’s as important now as it always has been, and for longevity in your career, you need to put those building blocks in nice and early.

4. Experience as much as you can- don’t just go into a place and say ‘I’m here to do that one job and I’m not interested in anything else’. Get your head down first to make sure you do what you need to but then, head up, look around, where else can I help? Be the person in that new environment saying ‘What’s next, Chef, where else can I work?’, finish your work and help your colleagues out.

5. Try and speak to someone who’s been there and done it- there are lots of people scattered around this industry that has had a long career. Try and grab hold of someone in those early stages of deciding what you want to do that’s been around a little bit, had a few experiences and that can really advise you on all the different options that are open to you, to pick one that probably suits you the best as an individual.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th February 2017

Ben Purton, executive chef, The Lancaster