James Close, The Raby Hunt

The Staff Canteen

James Close discusses his role as Chef Proprietor at The Raby Hunt and his own inspirations with regards to persuing a career as a Chef.

Name: James Close

Place of work: The Raby Hunt

Role: Chef Proprietor

Bio: Former professional golfer, James Close is the Chef proprietor of the Raby Hunt Restaurant in Darlington. He holds the 2017 Good Food Guide Chef of the Year title. The Staff Canteen spoke with James about his journey into the industry and his top tips for those hoping to make it in the kitchen.

Follow James on Twitter: @rabyhunt

How long have you been in this role?

Seven years.

When did you learn that you wanted to be a Chef?

My story is very different to others. Initially, I decided to train as a golf professional and it wasn’t until I was 28 I became a Chef.

To begin with, I got a job washing up. As soon as I started to get involved inside of the kitchen, that’s when I knew that I wanted to become a Chef. I was always involved with food when I was growing up, but I thought I would go down the sport route first.

What is a typical day like for you?

On a typical day, I arrive at half past eight. I run through the orders with my sous Chef, establish whether they are good enough, if not, we will send it back and try to reorder the goods. I do a couple of hours preparation work in the kitchen, and after that, I’ll disappear to the chocolate room. I’ll start tempering our signature skull chocolate and make a series of ganaches to go inside the skulls.

After that, I’ll check the front of house, make sure everything is running smoothly, ask questions, go through table numbers, listen to feedback from the previous night and look at dietary requirements and special requests.

We then take a little break and I go home for an hour. I think in this day and age we need to try and do that. Our standards are better by having a break. I’ll then come back and check that the prep has been done correctly because everything has to be perfect. We don’t want to get to service and realise that something wasn’t quite right. I’ll check that everything is ready for service. I have never missed a service since we have opened, I’ve never let anyone down.

What top tips would you give to someone looking to start out in the industry?

If you’re dedicated and you have passion, you can make it. It’s not about being born with a talent, if you’ve got passion and you’re interested in food, then you can easily become a Chef.  Don’t go into it half-hearted, you’ve got to be able to do the hours.

Do you believe that there is enough encouragement in schools to get people into the catering industry?

 No, not really, there is nothing out there that tries to tell people what the industry is really about. I don’t believe that there is any school encouragement. Going to catering college and doing your NVQ 1, 2 and 3 doesn’t tell you how to work in a  fully functioning kitchen. We’ve got to be able to teach that at college, get people to understand the industry, they need to know that if you want to be a Chef you’ve  got to do a few extra hours.

What experience and skills do you look out for in someone’s CV?

I don’t look for any skills or any experience. Sometimes the more experience someone has, the worse they can be. I go for people who are very dedicated. I take a look at their interests, maybe they have written about a three star Chef and how they are blown away by their food. It’s all about passion. If they can get that over in the CV or the interview, then they’ve got a chance.

One of the best people I have employed is a girl that turned up at the back door and asked if she could have a job. She had never worked anywhere before. I gave her a job and she’s working in my kitchen today and she’s probably one of the best we’ve had. Sometimes the ones that lack experience are the ones that really want it.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th October 2016

James Close, The Raby Hunt