Graham Hornigold, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 26th November 2010
Graham, good afternoon perhaps we can start by you outlining your role here at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. My role covers all pastry preparation across the property, that's breakfast, room service and afternoon tea. As Pastry Chef I also oversee certain aspects of the newly opened Bar Boulud in conjunction with the head chef and I'll be responsible for overseeing the some MEP of the pastry operation at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. How many people are there on your rota? I have a team of eight chefs and I oversee a further four that operate Bar Boulud How does that break down in terms of the structure? There is myself, then Sous Chef, the chef de parties and commis broken down across the sections of pastry. A head chef in Bar Boulud with a sous, cdp and demi. Graham, how many years have you been at the Mandarin, and what position did you join the team as? I'll have been here three years next March (2011) and I joined the team as Pastry Chef. I actually originally assisted with the closure and re-opening of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park from May 1999 to may 2001 before joining The Lanesborough as Executive Pastry Chef. Graham, how do you feel the role of the Pastry Chef has changed over the last ten years, here we are in beautiful Mandarin Oriental, and there seems to be a huge shift to have named Chef restaurant in most London hotels, you have Bar Boulud downstairs, Foliage has closed, and of course, Heston's first London venture will be opening soon, is your role now very banqueting based, room service and morning goods production? The whole hotel industry's shift to take on outsourced restaurants is one that I understand but naturally it has had its effect on the Pastry Chef. Whilst I oversee the majority of the outlets here at the hotel they are, of course, working to a directive from the host chef - their recipes. The addition of two 3* chefs to the team here has increased the chef opportunities in the kitchen; we now have an in-house butcher and charcutier both of whom have great skills. We continue to have a busy afternoon tea, room service, and private dining, supplying them with pastry products, and we will continue to develop and deliver to the high standard of which we are expected. Does the changing responsibilities of the Pastry role create an environment that is more difficult to recruit new staff for, who are perhaps attracted to the high profile Chef brands over the traditional hotel central kitchen? I think it really depends on what the individual wants to learn, for me still the best training ground for a Pastry Chef is a large hotel environment, that offers all the sections - bakery, touriette chocolate, sugar, as opposed to a restaurant that may bake bread, may do chocolate, but will focus on its plated desserts. They use modern techniques, but there seems to be a shift currently towards what I call comfort food, much less technical, but still delivered to a very high standard. After all, the basics done well are unbeatable. So for me the hotel Pastry Chef is very much the last bastion of formal structure training of the all sections. Graham, I want to understand the origins of how you became a Pastry Chef. Did you begin in the kitchen and migrate? I started out as a Chef, within the main kitchen but felt that I could be creative within the pastry department. I felt it was a department where I could make guests happy, there are more mediums to entertain, such as sugar, chocolate, morning goods, plated desserts and of course afternoon tea. You can often pay the same price for good afternoon tea, as perhaps a three course lunch in a Michelin star restaurant, so it has to be up to scratch! Graham, afternoon tea has developed and moved on, often, with themes and many hotels being very creative and progressive with their afternoon tea offer. Yes, it really has moved on, Hotels have had to raise their games as there are a number of outstanding tea rooms and afternoon tea offers in London which has, in turn, raised the expectation. When a guest has afternoon tea at The Ritz, or The Lanesborough or the Mandarin, there is a grandeur that comes with such an operation. People are also much more food savvy these days. When I first started in London, afternoon tea was almost a lets take the money and run type thing; where the pastry would cut and plate the cakes and pop them in the fridge; the service team would plate it and serve it, and if I'm honest by the end of service, it wasn't good. When I was at the Lanesborough we introduced the pre-dessert and hand finished the pastries with the chocolate decoration, burnt the brulee etc so as to achieve as fresh a product as possible. Likewise at Mandarin, we have scones fresh from the oven, a huge selection of teas, the option of lemon curd and rose petal jam - so the whole package has been improved and invigorated. Graham, why are we across the whole industry struggling to find Pastry Chefs? Where are all you buggers hiding? That's a tough question to give a simple answer to. For me it's about a level of commitment from hotels and chefs alike. It also requires maybe a better understanding of pastry from the wider public - it's understanding through eating that will educate people I guess, let me explain that better. We need to be more adventurous, to educate ourselves and to truly understand what is out there and on offer for us. If you look at the humble French bakery, you'll get an excellent croissant, unfortunately outlets in the UK are not in the same league! Unless you want a pasty!!!....... (Laughter) It's the same at Starbucks, you'll get a soggy croissant. But as a chef you can get some good ideas from coffee shops, we just refine them. For me if you want a good croissant in the morning outside of the upmarket bakeries, which are good, though there aren't enough of them, then go to the Co-Op if you get there early enough, there are some really good products.. Sorry Graham, are you saying that you're competing against Bakeries and alike that are offering regular hours and better conditions? No, what I'm saying is that the traditional pastry house and kitchens are dwindling, because of out sourcing. Graham, what advice would you give to a young chef, that is looking to embark on career as a Pastry Chef, would it be start on that path from day one or experience the main kitchen first? My advice would be to investigate all aspects of the kitchen first. You may want to be a Pastry Chef but then decide that you prefer the kitchen, the same could be said the other way around. To have more knowledge has to be an advantage. Try to never lose the hunger to learn! It maybe that that person wants to develop into F& B or perhaps open their own enterprise eventually. Which is a big risk. It is a big risk, but you need to know all aspects of running a kitchen, including Pastry. I think that when people enter into the kitchen, they need to set a goal and keep working towards that. I do question the motivation of some young chefs that come into the industry. Are the colleges teaching them relevant skills? I mean, Choux Paste does not mean that you have to make a Choux Swan. Do not get me wrong, the basics are essential just applied to the modern day patisserie. No, Profiteroles, of course. (Laughter) Yes Exactly!!!!!!!"¦. Well, I mean profiteroles if done well are a great dessert, they invoke memories. But you will not see a swan as a pastry or dessert these days, so by all means teach choux, but finish it as St.Honore, religious or Paris Brest? These are all classical pastry making a resurgence and relevant to modern patisserie. We need to ensure that we are also teaching modern methods and it is the responsibility of people such as myself to ensure that we keep young Chefs motivated and interested. Graham, you mention keeping young Chefs interested and without a restaurant, one of the main areas of development is creating restaurant food in banqueting. Yes, of course, people who dine in banqueting in the five star market are paying almost the same about as in the restaurants so really it's a given to create plated restaurant food. Graham, give us an example of the food that you're doing in banqueting that you'd find in a restaurant, for example - do hot soufflés feature? Yes, we can do hot soufflé, when I was at the Park Lane we would do between, six to eight hundred, you can ask Mr Bennett about that when you meet him! Bread and butter, apple crumble and classic Grand Marnier lol I will. With our dishes, we are looking to create a final WOW, it's often the last thing that guest will eat. We create a dishes that are light, flavoursome and with taste and texture, but also seasonal, this very very important. Graham, last question what can we do, as an industry, to improve how we are seen, and make our vocation more appealing to young Chefs? I think it's a combination of many things - ensuring that we pay the right salary; offer a good environment to work in; good food to eat; time off. But also we need to ensure that we are offering a strong skill set, which develops the Chefs. It's hugely important that we teach and practice core skills and train our future Chefs. Graham, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you!
Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 26th November 2010

Graham Hornigold, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park