A chef’s many hats

The title of executive chef has an air of authority to it, but after chatting to a few of Perth’s well-known executive chefs it becomes clear the moniker carries with it the responsibilities that go with any executive management position. Julie-anne Sprague caught up with chefs from three different dining operations, one from a fine dining and function venue, another from a popular hotel and catering venue, and the third from one of St Georges Terrace’s five-star beauties, to discover the type of bookwork these culinary kings can do.

CHRIS Taylor owns and operates Frasers Restaurant and says his 80-hour week is spent overseeing the function centre, private dining room, catering service, two kitchens, the kiosk and, of course, the 200-seat restaurant.

“I’ve really got five profit centres and I need to over see the lot of it,” he says.

“I guess the executive chef is like a director.”

Chris is often involved in food promotions and travels regularly to places up north of the State and to Indonesia.

“But it’s no holiday. You pay for it when you go and when you get back,” Chris says.

There is no doubt though that a hierarchy exists in the kitchen just as it does in St George’s Terrace, with the stripes needing to be attained before moving ahead.

Chris has spent most of his time in Perth as an executive chef with the Mecure Hotel and Rendezvous Observation City Hotel.

He set up Frasers in 1993 with a wealth of experience, and not just his own. Thirteen staff members from Rendezvous joined him on the venture, which has now become a dining icon for lovers of fine food.

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Subiaco Hotel executive chef Ivan Mather has long-term connections with his staff. Ivan started at the Oriel Cafe and Brasserie as a sous chef and Subi hotel’s current head chef Brad Burton worked with him. Ivan has been working at the Subi for six years as the executive chef and Brad has been working at the Subi for five years as the head chef.

“We like to grow our management from within. We can get a very good cook but it can be overwhelming for some,” Ivan says.

“We prefer to have chefs in mind when we recruit them with people who want career paths.”

And while Ivan shys away from the amount of time and effort that go into his role, he admits his role is a managerial one.

“Executive chef and head chef are used pretty loosely. I refer to myself as a chef, but yes, as an executive chef in a large property, you’d have a larger administrative role,” he says.

“I cook everyday and have a strong supporting management team. My job is managing the balance.”

Ivan is responsible for 18 kitchen staff.

“It’s about making sure everyone is focused and motivated and to keep the standards up. You need to communicate very well and you have to work closely with all of them,” he says.

And Ivan’s love for food has him working breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“I really don’t know what you would classify working – is it when you’re at home doing menus, when you’re on holidays checking out restaurants? Work encroaches on your social life and your social life encroaches on work.”

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On the other side of the administrative fence is the Sheraton’s Andrew Thomas, who has been acting as the executive chef since February 1 this year.

“It is more of an administrative role. It’s looking at the food cost and making sure we don’t go over, attending productivity meetings, operational meetings and so forth,” he says.

Andrew oversees the entire food operation at the Sheraton Perth Hotel, which includes Montereys Brasserie and Origins Restaurant, as well as catering, functions, and banquets.

He says the role of the executive is dependent on drive and experience.

“It comes down to job experience and whether or not you want to take on the extra pressure,” Andrew says.

“If you are good at managing and a very good people manager, you’ll be ok.”

Fritz Hansal from the Cable Beach Club Resort will take up the post as executive chef at the Sheraton Perth next week.

And does Andrew envisage becoming an executive chef full-time? After a little more cooking, he says.

The chef chain of command: (depending on the size of an organisation).

Executive chef – runs the entire kitchen and sometimes the entire organisation.

Head chef or chef de cuisine or senior sous chef – runs the restaurant/s.

Sous chef – the second in charge.

Chef de partie – in charge of each section of the restaurant.

Commis chef.


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