Graham Hornigold, Hakkasan Group

The Staff Canteen
Graham Hornigold

Graham Hornigold discusses his role as Executive Pastry Chef at Hakkasan Group and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Graham Hornigold

Place of work: Hakkasan Group

Role: Executive Pastry Chef

Bio: Graham is an Executive Pastry Chef for the Hakkasan group’s worldwide operations including the original Hakkasan restaurants, Yauatcha, Sake no Hana, HKK and Chrysan. Before this, he was an Executive Pastry Chef at Mandarin Oriental.  

Chef Skills

Graham Hornigold 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.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I started cooking at primary school; I remember doing chocolate apples in front of the school assembly. Working my way around bakeries, pubs and farm shops in St.Albans during my teens. Following which I was an apprentice at Sopwell House Hotel, St.Albans and attended West Herts College, Cassio in the early nineties finishing at TVU under the tutelage of Prof John Huber.

I have always been happy cooking and remember preparing supper for my brothers and sisters when we were growing up. A challenging childhood made life a little difficult at times, but having a loving mother helped to mould my decision to move with my chosen profession so at the age of eighteen years old I left home and started at The Lygon Arms, Broadway as a Commis.

Dessert from the Hakkasan Group

What's your current position like? Did you always want to become a  Pastry Chef?

 Not many people know I am a trained Chef and that some of my junior roles were in the hot kitchen. I had to change allegiance though as heat and I do not get on; as the saying goes “if you can’t stand the heat get out the kitchen” so I just chill in the Pastry.

 I am very lucky in my current role as Executive Pastry Chef for Hakkasan  Group, when I joined there was no real infrastructure or direction. I was given pretty much a blank canvas and now we have a global network of some one hundred plus Pastry Chefs spanning the globe. The ability to influence at all levels, from design to equipment specification, menu development, and the overall training structure for our Pastry Chefs is by far the most rewarding aspect of the position.

How long has it taken you to get to your current level in the industry?

Dessert from Hakkasan Group

Cooking since I was sixteen and in professional kitchens from eighteen equates to? Let me see… about twenty-four years to date.

What kinds of experience or qualifications are required for those wanting to get to the top level of the industry?

In a word: varied! I have been very lucky and worked in pubs, bakery, hotels and restaurants with the key to Pastry being hotels! Find the best one you can where they produce as much as possible in house. This is sadly hard to find these days, hotels for me are the last fully structured training centres for a Pastry Chef, but they must be good and fully understand the role of the Pastry. Influencing every possible aspect of the business through breakfast goods, condiments, pralines, afternoon teas, bakery, private dining, the logistical challenges of all this mis en place and still, of course, the hotel restaurants. Once you have mastered the hotel environment you can diversify and specialise in so many other disciplines.

Where else have you worked? Is Cantonese very different to work with compared to other types of restaurants?

Dessert from Hakkasan Group

Previous experience was mainly hotel based, I had moved from Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park where I’d been Chef patissier, this was my second position at the hotel as I had previously been Pastry Sous Chef. Executive Pastry Chef of The Lanesborough Hotel and Home house private members club summarise my senior career.

When I was offered the position, I expressed my concerns with regards to my understanding of Asian desserts. Hakkasan Group patisserie is European based and heavily influenced by the locality of the restaurants rather than being driven by Cantonese. We look towards a blend of cleansing, light and refreshing desserts which complement the Cantonese or in the case of Sake no Hana the Japanese cuisine which they follow.

Is there anything in particular that you look for on a CV?

The length of service and number of previous positions is always the first thing I look at. Chefs do move around but sometimes far too often. I also review the quality of the establishments and the volumes which they do, as can give me an insight into the ability to handle pressure.

What would be your top five tips to anyone wanting to work in hospitality?

  1. Set yourself a goal, one which is mapped to a realistic time frame.
  2. Identify what is required to achieve that goal.
  3. Do outside reading and stagiers to increase the potential of that goal
  4. Never accept that you are not good enough and cannot achieve it
  5. And once that goal is achieved set another, never stop learning.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2016

Graham Hornigold, Hakkasan Group