Lee Bye, Tuddenham Mill

The Staff Canteen

Lee Bye discusses his role as Head Chef at Tuddenham Mill and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Lee Bye

Lee Bye

Role: Head Chef

Place of work: Tuddenham Mill

Follow Lee on Twitter: @leebyeChef

Chef Skills

Lee Bye takes us through her 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 did you get into the industry?

I grew up in a little village five minutes from Newmarket called Fordham like most villages there was nothing to do apart from play football or find work. I tried my hand at both. I started off like most young Chefs in the local pub kitchen on a Sunday lunch as a kitchen porter, I just wanted to earn money for my phone credit…earning money was the motivation.

The following weeks after that I found myself helping send the lunches with the landlady Carol. Peas and sweetcorn from the Bain Marie was on the menu but even then I loved the buzz of sending food out to the restaurant and preparing for service.

I went on to Cambridge Regional College and completed my NVQ 1 and 2 while working in another local pub.

When I was around 19 I found it very difficult to not take notice of all activities my friends from school were doing, as I worked every weekend. I never fell out of love with the industry but at 19 I knew I didn’t want to live that style of life anymore.

Lee Bye

My whole family are in the building trade and I believed I was meant to do this too. I walked onto a building site at 19 and became a scaffolder’s  labourer…I thought what have I done? I was too stubborn to admit to my mistake and continued to be useless at scaffolding for three months. I had to be back in the kitchen…my body would be exhausted after being on site all day but my head was not being used. I needed creativity to be happy and I never found that on that cold Cambridge building site.

Do you think there was enough guidance for you or someone you could talk to when you were deciding your options?

I don’t think I had the wrong guidance throughout my college days but I honestly believe no one and nothing can prepare a young Chef starting out to what emotions and lifestyle changes they are about to encounter…or not in some cases.

Young Chefs like young children and young adults are judged so heavily on what they have or are doing and it’s a massive race who can have it the quickest.

Why would Chefs work for such poor money and work such long hours?

I didn’t mind so much because I drove a £700 Punto at 17 and earned £113 a week. I have had commis Chefs who have driven BMW’S, they need to keep up with friends in all areas and I don’t think the work-life balance that the industry offers is a draw anymore.

Do you think that the hours involved, the lack of a social life etc is communicated enough to a Chef just starting out – from that do you think that some Chefs are therefore not aware of the reality?

Capital has been poorly distributed from all levels and agencies have inflated the pool as a larger amount of Chefs would rather do the circuit for more money and less hours. Less and less Chefs honour their contracts because they know work will always be available for a ‘short term fix’ at any level.

It feels like the industries stocks are high but no one is offering to buy them. It’s a really strange scenario and that is why I believe the topic is so high on every ones tongues.

If someone was coming to work with you what are you looking out for in that Chef?

When a Chef comes through the door here at Tuddenham I look for commitment, positivity and manners. Skillsets are dependent on position but like most kitchens, you will work to the standard and style of that kitchen; so being able to adapt to new environments is vital as all kitchens are so different in what they deliver and how they get to that point.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing, knowing what you know now, what would it be?

If I could go back I would have travelled more and learnt more with food before life gave me responsibility. Getting out there as young Chefs is crucial and something I believe should be done by all restaurants to get the young Chefs out there across Europe together. I’m really passionate about the youth of today in our industry and we must find new ways to bring them through in a positive environment…funded trips across the UK and Europe is a great start.

Tuddenham Mill

If I could give any advice to any young Chef starting out I would tell them to find a restaurant that is busy, cooking fresh every day and opportunity to grow within that business…and most importantly enjoy your beginning of your career and embrace being the student of the industry.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th November 2016

Lee Bye, Tuddenham Mill