Craig Burrows' Story
I wanted to be a chef from about 11 years old when I was wowed by watching wonderful dishes being created, and at 16 I started to go to college. It is a demanding role but the team helps me stay motivated and positive; my biggest passion is to create unbelievable food with them. There are tough days, but then I go back to being that 11-year-old to remind myself why I am a chef.
All five or six chefs have contributed to the final menu and that team effort allows is my inspiration for the recipes, and we tweak them day-to-day – nothing remains the same, we are always looking to improve. That’s motivating for them, they thrive on it, they love feeling they are part of something bigger. One of my demi-chefs came up with an amazing idea and that is now on the menu.
We are a team of 13 and we are looking for more – we want to get back to 21. Coming out of Covid and lockdown, I wanted to turn this negative into a positive, so I looked at how to rebuild and create the ethos, mentality and environment we want the team to come into; and I decided what to build for the future. We used to see a lot of frowns and now we see a lot of smiles, so I can see that what we are doing works; we are doing quite long hours and because we are pushing for the same goal, those hours don’t seem as hard as they used to.
It’s not difficult to be original but you have to know what’s going on in the industry, and to use your own creativity. I speak to suppliers every day and sometimes they give me ingredients I’ve never even heard of, or the best things that are in season, and that inspires creative ideas.
When I was about 16 or 17 and still at college, Gordon Ramsay was my mentor; and after that, I worked for Pierre Koffmann for four years, and he was one of the guys that trained Gordon Ramsey, so it was like completing the circle. Looking back, Pierre Koffmann had a massive influence on the chef I have become; my vision and my attention to detail and respect for ingredients, all that changed because of him.
When Gordon Ramsey was at Petrus in The Berkeley, I used to do four days a week with Koffmann and I had three days off, so spoke to Marcus Wareing and asked to work for him doing stages on my days off; I’d work with them both.
Anyone in the industry has to have a passion for it and they need to know why they want to be in the sector and what they want; at 17/18, I set myself goals – I wanted to be a head chef at 30. It is a sociable sector but you have be a bit selfish; if you want to get promoted, you have to push to be your best and not be blinded by what others are doing. And as you get older and more senior, you have an obligation to train and teach people. It may be hard but it’s a wonderful industry.
I think hospitality is the best industry in the world, it opens many doors; you can jump from one department to another, front to back of house, housekeeping, etc. As an 18-year-old, I became much prouder of my achievements; and in college, there were little milestones that gave me confidence and belief that I could be successful.
For a first job, I would definitely give the hospitality industry serious consideration, whether in a restaurant, pub, hotel; there are wonderful, passionate people who can train you, mould you, push you. I am proud to be a chef – joining the industry is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make; we joined to create something special for others.
- Craig Burrows
- Executive Head Chef
- Pullman London St Pancras (United Kingdom)