Chef Kerth Gumbs graduated from Le Cordon Bleu London in 2004 with a Grand Diplôme®. He has over 15 years’ experience working for world class establishments including Michelin-starred restaurants, hotels, trendy brasseries and celebrity chefs’ projects. He now holds the position of Head Chef at Ormer Mayfair. We caught up with Kerth recently to find out his story.
What made you want to become a chef?
When I was in high school, all the students were asked to choose one of the following compulsory subjects when they reached fourth grade: auto mechanics, wood work or food nutrition. Auto mechanics and wood work were dominated and overcrowded by young boys banging, welding and sawing away at things. That did not appeal to me and to be frank, I didn’t particularly like getting dirty either. I also thought that if I chose food nutrition, at least I would get to eat what I’d made! My mom was also a chef, so I grew up around her cooking and I always loved to see the faces of happiness and sounds of appreciation she got from whoever she cooked for.
Why did you decide to come to Le Cordon Bleu in London?
When I was 17 years old, I remember scouts from Le Cordon Bleu visiting my high school and I thought it was interesting, as cooking was something that always resonated with me. However, at the time, I had a scholarship in track and field which I was very active in, but that fell through. Though this was disappointing, I had to seriously think about what I wanted to do. I started thinking about various jobs, such as accountant, doctor or lawyer, and realised that regardless of your career path, food is a necessity for everyone and being a chef is the perfect way to provide a relevant service needed by all. Immediately, I started to do some research with my father, who helped me to apply to the school in London. Once I was accepted, everything happened quickly and I relocated to London on 1st Jan 2004 to begin my Grand Diplôme® and my culinary journey.
How did the programme help prepare you for your culinary career?
The Grand Diplôme® helped me to learn the basic, intermediate and superior levels both in cuisine and pâtisserie, to the highest standards and nothing less! This was quite useful for the type of cooking I do today, as I have always created not only cuisine dishes, but pastry ones as well.
It was a natural aspiration for me to get in this position, doing fine dining.
You’ve worked in some amazing restaurants and at some fantastic events since graduating, do you have a career highlight you can share?
I once cooked dinner at Princess Diana’s family home for Lord & Lady Spencer, with Tom Aikens and his team. That was something else!
You have been at Ormer for around four years now, how do you keep it fresh and exciting for yourself and your patrons?
Our menus are seasonal as I change the du jour menu every three weeks. This menu is based on the upcoming months produce, so I will always have a think of what is popular and what is coming to season in the next month – this is the starting point of any dish that has been created for the du jour menu. If the dish has been overly popular, then this gives me a chance to add it to the à la carte in place of something which has been existing for the past 2-3 months, so this means that the à la carte menu gets a face lift regularly.
Chef Kerth returned to Le Cordon Bleu London as a guest chef at the Summer Festival in 2019.
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Be determined, set yourself for a strong mind and willing body – or a strong body and willing mind. Surround yourself by people with the best qualities. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the best chef, it can be a team or leader who will help to bring out the best in you. Don’t hesitate also to look over shoulders to learn as much as you can and whenever you can.
What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in one word/sentence?
To me, Le Cordon Bleu is a symbol of culinary excellence and the stepping-stone for any aspiring chef willing to learn the highest standards of classical cooking skills.
What can you tell us about your current role?
I oversee the whole Ormer kitchen team and create the menus for the restaurant. I am usually the first one to arrive in the kitchen, usually by 7:15, then I say good morning to all my arriving chefs. I start fish and meat prep around 7:40, then about 8:45 I move on to the other sections. This is closely followed by entering invoices around 10am and kitchen clean down at 10:30. After this, I taste testers of all sauces, purees, foams, gels etc from each section which need to be approved by 11:45. We are then set for the restaurant opening its doors at 12 noon.
I think the constant refining and training of staff is a challenge, but one I happily accept, as I believe in training and passing on my knowledge to help my chefs invest in themselves through this craft. I believe that if you find a job that you love and enjoy, you will never have to work a day in your life. My motto is: “Human beings create life, food is the source that maintains it – one cannot do without the other”.
What part of the role are you most passionate about?
The creative process, definitely! In addition to that, our menus tend to change frequently, so it always keeps me on my toes and pushes my boundaries.
Finally, do you have any exciting plans for the future?
The biggest highlight of my year so far is my participation in the Great British Menu 2020! It’s something I had always wanted to do, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity. So stay tuned on BBC Two…As to what unfolds after, do follow me on social media – I always share exciting news so let’s see what the rest of the year brings!
Find out more about the Grand Diplôme® and all our other culinary courses on our programmes page.