Ross Sneddon, head pastry chef, Claridge's London

The  Staff Canteen
Having worked in various hotels throughout his career and for Thorntons as a development chef Ross Sneddon is now settled as head pastry chef for luxury 5 star hotel Claridge’s in London. Running a pastry kitchen that works throughout the night Ross and his team serve breakfast, ‘elevenses’, afternoon tea, which Claridge’s is famed for, lunch and dinner service as well as fitting in masterclasses and judging 'Dessert of the Year'.Claridge's Exterior with people We speak to Ross about the pressure of working in such a prestigious venue and having Fera at Claridge’s’ kitchen right next door. Did you always want to be a pastry chef? When I first started as a young chef for a couple of years I worked in both pastry and the main kitchen but then I realised that pastry was definitely the place for me. The type of work is just a different pace and a different style of work. Did you seek to work in hotels within pastry or did it just happen that way? It was never a conscious decision it was just an area that I had entered into and once you’re you start to know people there and build up friends and contacts so one thing leads to another. Dessert of the year 2009When was it that you worked as a product developer for Thorntons? I had worked in a hotel for ten years, went to New York where I was a head pastry chef for Emerson Inn and Spa and from there I went to The Balmoral in Edinburgh where I was a head pastry chef in the Michelin-starred restaurant Number One and did that for 5 years. From there I was approached by Thorntons and an opportunity to go and do something different and work with chocolate and specialise in that was really appealing, especially as my boss was a very good friend of mine. Would you go back into working somewhere like that again?
Desert Island desserts: Lemon tart Sticky toffee pudding Vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce – for me it’s about simple flavours Lemon Posset Chocolate mousse Signature dish: One dish on the menu that I like at the moment is a little green apple Sunday with blackcurrants and pecan brittle.
You never say never and I learnt a lot and enjoyed it, but currently I’m very happy with what I’m doing. How was it winning Dessert of the year (2009)? That was at Nadell’s Patisserie and I judged it every year since. I’m happy now to judge it rather than enter again as I’ve entered it twice and the first year I never earned a place; that was very frustrating. I left it two years to practice before entering again but I feel like I’ve done my competing part of it and I’m happy judging and being involved that way; also I don’t really have the time now to practice for things like that so judging is perfect. What do you think about associations like the UK Pastry Club, are they important? Anything like that which provides an opportunity for people to get together, to exchange ideas and to speak about things have only got to be positive. So talking about Claridge’s how many are there in your team? We currently have 16 pastry chefs but Claridge’s is a big operation, it runs 24 hours a day and that will be production and service. Throughout the night the guys will make croissants and the Danish pastries so they are baked fresh ready for the morning and then in the morning we’ll start to prepare the fruit and the breakfasts for the rooms and restaurants. That will then lead into ‘Elevensies’ that is served in the Foyer and then it’s into lunch service and banqueting and conferences and then it’s afternoon tea which is a focus for us and then it’s dinner for the restaurants, the rooms and the bars; it’s a full on day!Citrus and Basil cake Would you say that there is an added pressure as it is Claridge’s with a reputation for being luxury? I would say there was yeah, I remember feeling slightly differently [when I started], there is pressure but through the expectations of the type of people who come to Claridge’s. They are used to a certain lifestyle and generally know what they want. To deliver that consistently is challenging and a lot of the guests have been coming here for years and have a clear idea of what they want. With Simon Rogan opening Fera have you noticed an increase in guests? Having Fera at Claridge’s is fantastic, I see the guys everyday as their kitchen is right next to mine and we have a good relationship with the guys. It’s great and they’ve done really well with the Good Food Guide and Michelin and I’ve ate their four times now and it’s been amazing each time. Do you have any involvement with the masterclasses at Claridge’s? Gingercake quince gel cremefriache and giandujaYeah, we do a chocolate class and an afternoon tea one and we also do one on British puddings, those are  the sweet ones which I do but we also do other ones that the head chef does like how to carve game bird and a fish masterclass. Are you still involved with the Artisan School of Food, do you still teach there? I still have affiliations with them and go and speak and help them with the criteria of their coursework but in regards to teaching I’ve not taught a class there for about a year now. It’s simply because I don’t get the time anymore to get up there but I have no doubt that in the future that I would work with them again as it’s a place that I really love and it’s a brilliant place built up from a charity and it’s doing well. What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps? To be a pastry chef I think you need to focus on continuing and improving what you do, you need to keep a humble attitude and realise that this is a massive field that you need to learn. It’s about working those hours and the practice that you have as a lot of things develop naturally for people. Would you say it is important to specialise early on in pastry? I think it’s up to the individual, if you know you want to be a pastry chef then you should go for it early on. You can spend your life in pastry and not know everything so the more you’re there the more you’ll learn but I don’t think you can generalise it. Who has been your biggest influence or someone who gave you advice that you’ve taken throughout your career?Claridge's Foyer I’ve been fortunate to work with some really talented people and people who have devoted a lot of time for me. I would say William Deen who’s a chef/proprietor in Perth and Jeff Bland from The Balmoral have both influenced most. What would you say your plans are for the next five years? At the moment I’m just concentrating on Claridge’s and I don’t have any plans beyond that, it’s a job that as a pastry chef I knew was there but I never really imagined myself to have it and having it for me makes me really proud, so I’m really happy with it. If like Ross you would like to become a pastry chef then head over to our jobs board where you will find a whole host of these jobs available.
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th January 2015

Ross Sneddon, head pastry chef, Claridge's London