Chef Colin's first senior position came in 1995 as Head Chef for the newly opened The Studio Restaurant in Mayfair. Subsequently, he took up senior positions in many 5* hotels such as The Renaissance Chancery Court in Holborn and The Great Eastern Hotel in London Liverpool Street, working alongside the likes of Tony Flemming, Warren Geraghty, Allan Pickett and Dominic Teague.
Chef Colin then entered the world of event catering as Senior Head Chef at Tate Catering designing specific menus and executing high profile events. His most recent position was as Executive Head Chef for On Air Dining where he created in flight menus of a 3 rosette standard or higher.
Chef Colin joined Le Cordon Bleu London as Cuisine Teaching Chef in 2016.
What made you want to become a chef and when did you realise?
My parents had a pub and I started working in the kitchen at about 11 years old. Originally I wanted to be a butcher as my older brother was a Master Butcher but when I was about 15 he told me not to bother as butchers were dying out.
I remember around this time I cooked a meal for my friend and his parents and we were talking about different career paths, and my friend’s dad turned to me and said “why don’t you do this,” as in catering, and it all started from there really
Anton Mossiman and the Roux Brothers were definitely an inspiration for me at the time.
What is your earliest food memory?
I had four brothers and one sister and my mum was really keen to make sure that we could all cook. But I think my most vivid food memory is when I was about 5 years old in junior school and I had a teacher called Mrs. Bennett who used to teach us basic bakery like rock cakes, scones and biscuits. I only remember her name because it was so similar to mine!
Which chef was your favourite to work with whilst at the 5* Great Eastern Hotel?
It has to be Tony Flemming as I worked with him the most. I didn’t feel like just his sous chef, there was a good sense of team work and a massive mutual respect. It was really fun bouncing ideas off of each other and there was a massive amount of knowledge amongst the events team. At one point there were 8 Michelin stars between them.
What appealed to you most about working at Le Cordon Bleu London?
I was as classically trained as you could get back in the early 80’s and I love rural French cooking so it is nice to be able to give something back. I like the fact that people come here because of their dedication and I love the location - I've lived in London for the last 30 or so years.
It feels really good to help my cuisine students achieve their dreams.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 ingredients and 1 kitchen utensil what would they be?
I would take cumin seeds, butter, potatoes and a skillet pan. Potatoes are so versatile, you can fry them, boil them or mash them and cumin seeds have such a good flavour. I also thought a skillet pan would be good because it’s heavy duty in case you need to build a fire.
What most excites you about the culinary scene in London?
I think it’s the diversity in terms of what you can get especially in the high-end spectrum of food. There are lots of up and coming chefs that are producing such interesting food who really grasp the art of food.
I also love the history of the restaurants and hotels in London. I consider London and Paris to be the food capitals of the world. There may be other places with more Michelin stars but they don’t have the same rich history.
What was it like working as Executive Head Chef for On Air Dining?
Well it was a new opening so we literally started from scratch, I helped set up the new kitchens in Stanstead airport as well as others. It was a lot of fun travelling. I went to Abu Dhabi to look at the Emirates Airline who produced up to 80,000 meals a day. I had to find the balance between fine dining and comfort food for clients that used to eat in the best restaurants in the country.
What would you say are the key factors needed to become a successful chef?
Drive, dedication and an artistic side. You also need a good foundation which comes with training at either a culinary school or a modern restaurant. However when you’re trained at a restaurant your skills and techniques will be limited to that of the one chef that taught you
Being classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu you are shown all of the different aspects of the role. This way you have a good grounding and will be able to adapt to different working environments.
What do you love most about your job and why?
I love the creativity that goes into being a chef and I also think working with younger people helps to keep you young. Although my wife says that it’s more of a hobby than a job! I also like that tremendous feeling of satisfaction that you get when something goes right. I think as a chef you always strive for that perfection.
In terms of being a teaching chef it feels really good to help my cuisine students achieve their dreams. I feel a huge sense of satisfaction seeing the growth of my students and how much their skills have developed and their standards have increased by the end of their courses.