Name: Steven Smith
Pub Company: Freemasons at Wiswell
Job title: Chef/Patron
Tell us about your career path:
I’ve been working in the industry since I was 15, from there it seems to have built up slowly but surely. I had a brief spell training in Catering & Hospitality at Blackburn College, from there, I went from strength to strength, working in some of the region’s best restaurants. I started at the Old Moathouse in Blackburn, before I had the opportunity to move to The Box Tree, Ilkley, which has a Michelin star. After that, I became the Head Chef at the 3AA Rosette Gilpin lodge in the Lake District and then at Stanley House in Mellor. Then in 2009, I was ready and I opened the Freemasons.
What is a typical day in your role like?
No two days are the same here at the Freemasons, but every morning Aga, the Front of House Manager, leads a staff briefing, then things get going as we go into service for lunchtime. After lunch is my admin time, I’ll catch up on emails in the office, liaise with suppliers, plan our schedule of events, look into some new recipes that take my fancy and generally work on ideas for the restaurant. Depending on my shifts, sometimes I’ll be working in the kitchen on the evening too. It’s demanding and incredibly rewarding at the same time. My days are extremely varied and that’s what I like most about my job.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your role?
I find that feeding people is an extremely humbling, gratifying day job – people get so much pleasure from it – there aren’t many professions where you have that feeling everyday.
What do you love about being a pub chef?
I love being able to work in a local pub, in my hometown. The heritage of the pub and the village are important to me. I would much rather work here than in a modern venue with no history behind it, the local history influences our style and ethos. Pubs are something authentic and inherently British – that we really do, do best; it’s a great honour to be a part of that.
If you could give one good reason why a young person should become a pub chef what would it be?
Because, unlike a lot of industries, natural talent isn’t the be all and end all – if you work hard enough, you can be successful.
Don’t get me wrong, it helps – but generally speaking (and especially in my kitchen) if you want to be a top chef, you can, you just have to be prepared to put in some serious hard work. Creativity will come naturally and gradually, and I would advise budding chefs not to worry about that until they have a good few years under their belt, concentrate on the basics and get them down, before anything else.
What do you think the pub sector has to offer young people?
I think the pub sector has a lot to offer, the opportunities are endless if people are prepared to work hard. Society’s forecast for the youth of today is very rigid – school, university, job – and I’d like to see the industry change that, showing another option to those who feel the pressure to go off the university.
The kitchen a very social environment to work in, you learn everyday and develop many transferable skills – if you change your mind about being a chef, you’ll still be better off.
What are the most important skills that a young person needs to have to succeed as a pub chef?
A positive attitude and a strong work ethic.
What are your career plans for the future?
We’ve got lots in the pipeline! It’s a really exciting time for new members of staff to join the team – so keep your eyes peeled, as we reveal our plans later in the year.
Other than that, we’ll be concentrating on the food awards. This year, we secured the 6th place at the Top 50 Gastro Pubs Awards, next year we want to be in the top three!