Steve Drake, Drakes Restaurant, Surrey

The Staff Canteen

Steve Drake discusses his role as Head Chef/Chef-proprietor at Drakes Restaurant, Surrey and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Steve Drake

Steve Drake

Place of work: Drakes Restaurant, Ripley, Surrey

Position: Head Chef/Chef-proprietor

Follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveDrakeFood

Bio: Steve Drake ranks as one of Britain’s culinary elite, being one of the few Chefs to win Michelin stars at more than one restaurant. After starting his career as a 17-year-old at London’s Ritz Hotel, Steve worked in the kitchens of luminaries Nico Ladenis, Tom Aikens and Marco Pierre White.

Steve won the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 2001, traveling to France to work at L’Auberge De L’eridan before returning home to guide his restaurant Drake’s On The Pond to its first Michelin star in 2003. He left to establish Drake’s in 2004, which gained Steve his second Michelin star soon afterward. 

In December 2013, Steve and his wife Serina bought their local pub, The Anchor Inn, relaunching it as a food-led pub under Head Chef Michael Wall-Palmer.

Chef Skills

Steve Drake 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?

One and a half years (Chef-proprietor)

What experience and how many years in your opinion would someone need to progress to the top level of the industry?

It depends on where you want to be and what your goal is, whether you want to be the Head Chef in a hotel or a restaurant because both require different attributes. But I would say that from the age of eighteen years old, you would need a good ten years to get to Head Chef level. I think sometimes that people want to become Head Chefs a little too early in their careers and ten years is a good amount of time to put in.

What are your ultimate top five tips for someone looking to start a career as a Chef?

1. You have to be really passionate and love food, have a real passion for creativity.

 2. You need to be very driven – I don’t think you can put it all onto the business, or the restaurant or the kitchen to do all your training, you really have to embrace it yourself and want to learn yourself and put in the hours yourself, reading books and understanding the industry more.

3. Try and be professional at all times- never walk out of a job, never just not turn up for a shift, etc.

4. Really respect the hierarchy within a kitchen - In a kitchen, everybody’s in a very close environment and you might have a commis running to the Head Chef every two minutes with a little problem when really he should be going to his Chef de Partie. I think it’s important to respect the hierarchy and know whom to talk to first.

5. Just try and be positive all the time and remember at all times that you are doing it for yourself - If it’s 10.30pm and it’s last orders, some of the Chefs have gone home and you’re waiting to send the last main course, you want to make it the best main course you’ve sent all night.

Are there any key Chefs and restaurants that someone should be speaking to and trying to gain experience with?

For me, and for lots of people I know, when you’re first starting out sometimes it’s quite good to go to a big hotel. I personally started at the Ritz Hotel and knew some other that started at The Savoy or at The Dorchester.

These big places where there’s so much going on, you see such a broad range of afternoon teas, functions, weddings, la carte restaurants, brasseries, room services. As a young Chef, you get that as your foundation, seeing all that stuff.

How can a young Chef make sure they can progress well in their career?

I think in a way you have to plot your career, clearly you have to know how to cook, but also you have to think about being a really good Chef de Partie. You need to go to that restaurant and learn those skills. For me, that would mean going to not a huge kitchen but not a tiny kitchen either, because then your section can almost be like your own kitchen and you’ve got a real responsibility.

Being in a tiny kitchen is a bit more difficult because obviously you might be covering two sections and people’s days off and it might be harder to learn.

As a Chef you need to target your own training, so that if you want to learn about costings, go somewhere where they’re really strong on that, where, when you go for a trial or an interview, you know that will be a big deal for them. You really need to pick out what you want to do.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th April 2017

Steve Drake, Drakes Restaurant, Surrey