Kimberly Lin-McCartney, head pastry chef, Corinthia Hotel, London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th October 2013
Kimberly Lin-McCartney is head pastry chef at London’s famous Corinthia Hotel. Originally from Canada, Kimberly moved to the UK eight years ago where she has worked at The Elephant in Torquay, Alimentum in Cambridge, The  Square Restaurant, The Savoy and Claridge’s before moving to Corinthia in June this year. The Staff Canteen caught up with the 32-year-old, half-Canadian, half-Chinese chef to find out how she is coping with her first head pastry chef role and how it feels to make a three-metre Christmas tree out of biscuits… Could you outline your role as head pastry chef at the Corinthia Hotel? I’m responsible for pastry across all the food outlets in the hotel; there’s Massimo’s, the Italian restaurant which was under separate management but has now come under my direction; there’s The Northall, our main dining outlet, which is British seasonal cuisine; then there’s The Lobby Lounge which is where we serve our afternoon tea but it’s also all-day dining serving lighter options and so forth; there’s also room service, banqueting, The Northall Bar and Bassoon Bar. How do you divide your time across all of those? This is really new to me; it’s my first head pastry chef job.  This is a huge operation with 294 bedrooms and I don’t have a sous chef yet! In terms of dividing my time, generally I try to work the full morning until about two o’clock in the kitchen doing mise en place and then I find that the afternoon is taken up with paper work. As a head of department there is a lot of paper work involved. How big is the afternoon tea operation? We average between 50 and 100 covers for afternoon tea which is quite small compared to some of the places doing 300-odd covers, but it’s quite nice for us because we have the time to do some more delicate things - we have eight different pastries on the menu. We change the afternoon tea menu to coincide with major holidays and events; so right now we’re doing London Fashion Week, then we’ll switch to autumn tea, then Halloween tea, then back to autumn tea then Christmas tea. It’s a lot of work changing eight pastries every couple of weeks but nobody likes to keep doing the same thing over and over so it’s good to change things and some of the staff have been here since the opening so it’s good to give them new things to keep them interested. This is your first head pastry chef role; what have you found the biggest challenge so far? Everything! No, probably balancing my time and having the trust to let go and let other people do things for me – having a day off and being able to switch off and not be constantly thinking, “did they order the apples?” and stuff like that. And the most rewarding thing? The job itself is a pretty big reward. I came to London four and a half years ago. I was working at The Square and I wanted to make the transition to hotels. I struggled to get a CDP job in a hotel even though I had nothing less than Michelin-star experience on my CV, just because I didn’t have hotel experience; so it feels like a real accomplishment to make the transition to head pastry chef at a big hotel. Also the executive head chef here, Garry Hollihead, is great.  We work with each other on menus to ensure our styles match, and suit each of the outlets.  But ultimately he seems happy to allow me freedom. Has cooking always been in your blood? I grew up on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada. It was a real country upbringing: we used to pick blackberries in` the summer; we made apple pies; we jarred summer fruits for the winter; we made our own bread and our own butter; we got milk from a local farm in a huge bottle. It sounds so clichéd but it really was like that. I’m also half Chinese so there was a huge influence of Asian cuisine – every celebration revolved around a huge meal so growing up, there was always some banquet to celebrate something or other. Of all the great chefs you’ve worked for, who have been the most influential? I have three; one is Christophe Letard who I worked for at The Aerie Resort in Canada. When I first saw the food in his kitchen I was absolutely dumbfounded because it was the first time I’d really seen anything like Michelin-standard food and he was so calm and caring and kind too. He was a really good person and it showed me the kind of chef that I wanted to be. There was another chef called David Williams who was at Alimentum when I was there. He was really tough and he pushed me hard, to the limits I think. At the time I didn’t really see the value but with hindsight he really shaped me and organised me; I’ve never worked so quickly in my life! My pastry chef mentor has to be Nick Patterson who I worked with at Claridge’s; I was his sous chef for just about two years and it was probably the hardest job I’ve ever done and probably the most important till this point. He really shaped me to be a manager. He is incredibly passionate and a very talented pastry chef and I believe if you give your all to him then he will give it back. What are your future goals at Corinthia and your longer-term ambitions as a pastry chef? I have a project that I’m working on for Corinthia for Christmas which is constructing a three-metre-high Christmas tree out of biscuits – we’ve estimated it will take about 3,000 biscuits! So far I have the one-metre top portion of the tree sitting in my office. I have this recurring nightmare that it’s all going to go horribly wrong and on November 27th when I’m supposed to be assembling it, I’m just going to have an acrylic frame and no biscuits! Longer-term ambitions are to make sure it’s still standing in January! No, the longer term ambition is to build a really strong team. I want us to be up there with names like Nick Patterson, Martin Chiffers and Claude Lemarche. They all have a few years on me but it would be nice to be on the same playing field as them. View Kimberly's recipe for Classic Apple Tart Tatin for 2 here View Kimberly's recipe for Hot chocolate and Cherries here View Kimberly's recipe for Lemon tart Thanksgiving here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th October 2013

Kimberly Lin-McCartney, head pastry chef, Corinthia Hotel, London