The man behind the chef: Gary Jones

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th November 2014

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In the build up to The Staff Canteen Live 2015 at the Hospitality Show, NEC Birmingham on January 19 – 21, we are taking a closer look at the chefs who will be joining us on stage, next up Gary Jones from two Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons.

We dig a little deeper to find out what they are hiding under those chef whites! Gary Jones is the executive head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons. The 49-year-old from the Wirral will be joining us in Birmingham and we are delighted to welcome one of Europe’s leading chefs, famed for working at Raymond Blanc’s legendary venue.

At The Staff Canteen we want to see what makes chefs tick. We asked Gary a few questions about what he gets up to when he’s not in the kitchen:

Gary Jones
Gary Jones

What made you want to be a part of The Staff Canteen Live?

Firstly, Mark Morris (Managing Director of The Staff Canteen) is a gentleman and I like the man very much. It feels like a great thing to be doing and I love the fact that all of the video transmissions go out to other chefs. Some of the videos he’s been doing now, particularly the international stuff, is fantastic. Young chefs can effectively go to some of the best kitchens in the world from the comfort of their own room and see a dish created by a major chef. It’s a fantastic viewing platform.

Do you think it’s a good thing to share ideas with your peer group then?

I do and I think we’re getting better because of it. If you look at the standard of cooking in the UK, it’s going up not down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant now, you can go to some fantastic pubs and have great food and, if you want to eat out, you’ve got a choice of great places to go.

How did you start on your path to being a top chef?

I started on a general catering course at Carlett Park on the Wirral, Merseyside. I'm from Merseyside and I did my two-years general catering course, and in the evening and on weekends worked in various small restaurants.

Where was the first place that you worked?

The first place I worked was a small restaurant in Rickmansworth, there were three of us in the kitchen, which I enjoyed immensely - we did everything, you had to peel the potatoes, prep the fish, make the jus, the casserole, the brasses and it gave me a good overall knowledge and solid skill base.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve been doing karate for the last six years now. I’ve got three daughters and I go with them and that’s Sunday morning taken care of. It’s hard to find the time to go but once you’ve done it you’re so relaxed afterwards. A typical Sunday is karate followed by cooking with the family followed by walking the dog followed by collapsing in the hammock. In that order too!

What’s one thing you could tell us nobody else will know? 

I’ve got an allergy to lily pollen and cats. If I walk in a room with lilies my eyes will start streaming so I always carry antihistamine because sometimes you go to restaurants and there’s a big display of lilies so I have to end up chewing antihistamine.

Wow, have you always had that?

It’s quite irritating yes, it’s developed in the last 8-10 years. Earlier on it didn’t really affect me.

What’s the last album you bought?

The Strypes.

>>> Read more in the Behind the Chef series here

Chocolate or cheese? 

Bit of both.

Marco Pierre White or Gordon Ramsay?

Neither. I’d go for RB or the Roux brothers. They’re the generation prior to the two characters you just mentioned. When they arrived we were in a real mess, it was a revelation for Great Britain.

What’s your worst injury or cut in the kitchen?

I’ve seen somebody saw a knuckle off on a bandsaw once. A frozen veal bone slipped and the knuckle came clean off. They’re ok but they certainly can’t make a fist anymore and their little finger sticks up. For me, I’ve actually sawn my knuckle. I’ve still got a scar from when I was trying to saw a pigs head in half. I was in a hurry, trying to get it split, rinsed and in the pot as quickly as I could. I slipped with it and took a knuckle out.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be? 

I love drawing and planning stuff accurately with a lot of detail so I’d probably be an architect. In school I loved technical drawing but I was too busy working in restaurants or playing football to do the homework. That’s what I love, it relaxes me to draw. I draw a lot in my free time and I love it when we design kitchens. It’s great too because I can use that side of things at work, it ties in quite nicely.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’ve got a big admiration for Mark Morris and what he’s doing with this. I think it’s great. Kitchens used to be forbidden places unless you worked there and everyone held on to their secrets. I think we’re in a different era now where everybody’s quite willing to show what we do and share everything which is great. There’s a good feeling throughout the industry which encourages chefs to pass skills on. Nobody can get better without sharing techniques.

Gary will be joining us at 12:30 on Wednesday, January 21, for The Staff Canteen Live. It should be an excellent event and a must for any food-lover.

By Tom Evans

See Gary's beetroot terrine recipe The Hospitality Show takes place at the NEC Birmingham from January 19-21, 2015. Registration for the show is open now at: http://www.hospitalityshow.co.uk/sc/

>>> Read more about The Staff Canteen Live 2015 at The Hospitality Show here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th November 2014

The man behind the chef: Gary Jones