In this special series, Produce Business UK takes a look at how some of the food industry’s most high-profile figures have come to be in their current positions and their highlights along the way. Our sixth and final career spotlight leads us to chef Tam Storrar, who reveals the reality behind the role of head chef at a fine dining establishment in the UK
Name: Tam Storrar
Position: Head Chef at Blanchette, Soho
Role: Organisation of the restaurant kitchen, menus, staff, costings and health and safety
Time in post: Two years
Career length to date: 18 years
How did you first get into the industry?
Tam Storrar (TS): I have always been interested in food from quite a young age as both my mother and father were always making preserves, wine, beer, pickles and so on. Originally, I wanted to be a mad scientist akin to Christopher Lloyd’s’ character ‘Doc’ [in the Back to The Future series of films], but I was pulled into the chef world by watching Keith Floyd on TV. He always seemed to be having such a good time, so I did my first kitchen work experience in a hotel at 15 years old and I instantly loved the manic excitement of the kitchen. From there I went to college and took an NVQ 2/3 in Food Production and a GNVQ in Hospitality Management.
Tell us about your career path to date.
TS: Whilst studying I worked pretty much every hour I could at a few different places, from hotels to carveries and canteens. When I finished college I went to work for a small fine dining hotel, called Colwall Park hotel. The head chef there had worked at Michelin-starred Chez Nico [Ladenis] in London, and the higher standard of food really excited me.
While working at the hotel I took a few stages [of short, unpaid periods of work] in London, as well as spending some time in outside catering at big events like Goodwood and the Cheltenham races. By the time I left the hotel, I was a senior chef de partie, but the transfer to my first job in London saw me taking up a commis chef role again. This was at Simon Hopkinson’s Bibendum, where I worked for 10 years, with a year out to work around Australia, before achieving the senior sous chef role there. This led me to becoming head chef at Blanchette.
What does your job involve now?
TS: I create the menus, organise the staff and manage the costing and finance, which is a big part of my day. These days chefs have to be tight on the admin or a restaurant won’t stay open for long, so a lot of my time is spent costing dishes and making sure the staff are following recipes with the correct portion sizes, etc. I also do a lot of work to keep on top of HACCP food safety standards, as well as working on PR and social media for the restaurant.
What are your career highlights?
TS: My highlights include using my skills to find jobs easily around Australia, including working on a boat in the Great Barrier Reef, where I just worked for snorkel time! I really enjoy the cookery demonstrations I get to these days – cooking in front of a crowd is something very different. It’s also very nice to be in the position where I can pass on my knowledge to the students who do work experience training with me now.
What advice would you give anyone already working or looking to get into your sector?
TS: My advice is simple: you’ve got to love it or just don’t bother.