James Cornwall, J Sheekey

The Staff Canteen

James Cornwall discusses his role as Head Chef at J Sheekey and J Sheekey Oyster Bar and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: James Cornwall

Place of work: J Sheekey and J Sheekey Oyster Bar

Role: Head Chef

Follow James on Twitter here: @James_Cornwa11

Bio: James Cornwall is the Head Chef of the Covent Garden’s fish and seafood restaurant J Sheekey and J Sheekey Oyster Bar. After training and completing his City and Guilds qualification in 2004 he went on to gain various work experience in hotels and restaurants in Wellington. Cornwall then moved to London where he was employed as Chef de Partie at J Sheekey just after three days of arriving, rising through the ranks until 2012 he was promoted to Head Chef.

Chef Skills

James Cornwall 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.

How long have you been in this role?

Two and a half years.

What experience would someone need in order to progress to the top level of the industry?

  • Firstly, you need to gain your base knowledge, either from a cooking college or a trained and competent Chef.
  • Then, it’s useful to work with more than one Chef in the beginning to gain more experience and knowledge from different Chefs; however, you do need to be careful about this, because companies don’t take kindly to Chefs staying for 6 months and then moving on. We’re quite lucky in our company (Caprice Holdings), because we have 14 different units in London where our Chefs can train, so there’s a fair amount of movement within the group.
  • We also like to promote from within, so a junior Chef can have great career prospects with us.

What are your ultimate top five tips for someone looking to start a career in the industry?

  1. Commitment & sacrifice – this is not an industry to take lightly, you will only get out what you put in.
  2. Stay focused – every Chef has a dream where they want to end up and that will change as you progress, but it is important to have direction and purpose.
  3. Taste – it seems too obvious, but you need to expand your palette. Try anything and everything. Be brave!
  4. Be patient – take time to listen and learn. Visit restaurants and take in as much as you can, like a sponge absorbing everything.
  5. Enjoy – it’s most important to enjoy what you do! It’s such an exciting industry, with food you get the chance to express yourself like an artist or a musician.
J Sheekey and J Sheekey Oyster Bar

Who are the key Chefs and restaurants that someone should be speaking to and trying to gain experience with?

 London is spoilt for choice but, apart from our group, I’d go straight to Angela  Hartnett, Jason Atherton or Ben Tish. These Chefs are at the top of their game at the moment. I have to say…Caprice Holding is doing a great job bringing through apprentices.

 The apprentices go to school for one day and work the other four, plus they also have the opportunity to move around the different restaurants in the group (including Scott’s, 34, The Ivy, Daphne’s, Bam-Bou etc). We even have a catering company, Urban Caprice. The apprentices are put under the tutelage of our Chef director, Tim Hughes – passionate, talented and who, as a mentor takes great pride in their progression.

What are you looking out for on a CV or in an interview if someone was applying to work with you?

Do your research on the restaurant you are trying to get a job. I’m all about attitude and teamwork, it’s not all about what you know, it’s more about what you’re willing to learn. Be positive and ask questions.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th October 2016

James Cornwall, J Sheekey