• Martin Packard

Early Learning

Happy New Year Everybody!

You probably won’t know that I trained as a chef when I was 16, straight out of school, back in 1990. I managed to get a placement with a company that owned 2 hotels in the same city. Trainees spent 6 months at one before transferring to the other, again for 6 months. You did this for 3 years until you were fully qualified.

Every day I set of on my 50cc moped for the hour-long ride to work, excited about my 9am – 2pm then 6pm – 10pm split shifts. The ride was fun and quite relaxing in the summer, not so much in the throes of winter.

Going into a professional kitchen at this age was quite a shock. It was a brutal environment with many pranks being played on the new kid. In my time there I was locked in the freezer, strangled onto the floor, and whipped countless times with wet towels. in some respects, the repetition was mind numbing, in other ways the amount of ownership was overwhelming, and if things went wrong, also quite painful.

To be told your food is of so bad quality it deserves to be thrown on the floor then told to clear it up without any advice of what to do next time can be disheartening to say the least.

It got so bad at one of the hotels I seriously considered falling off my moped and hopefully breaking an arm so I didn’t have to go in to work for a few weeks.

What have I learnt from these experiences? Well, I certainly don’t physically abuse my teams nor do I allow it. But also, I’ve learnt to set parameters. As I discovered, too much freedom is daunting and limited guidance can lead to mistakes. Not only can this chip away at someone’s confidence but that person is never going to reach their potential under these conditions. If you set parameters, ie. compiling a dish utilising a selection of agreed ingredients, it creates interest and is more likely to end in success for everyone involved.

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