Michael, you first got into cooking when you were a young boy. Can you tell me about that?
I come from a large family so we all used to muck in with the daily chores. I used to love growing fruit and veg in the garden with my dad and equally enjoyed cooking with my mum. It started with baking - like with most young children - but I then started to want to help with the main meals and it went from there. It was nice that my chores actually ended up creating my love of cooking.
How did you progress from college student to chef?
One of the most important things I did when at catering college in Exeter was to take a part time job in a restaurant. That gave me an insight into the real world and also allowed me to gain valuable experience. It was clear to me that I needed to move from Exeter if I wanted to really progress so when I finished College on the Friday, literally by the following Monday I had moved up to London and found a job in an hotel. There was no point hanging around. I just wanted to get on with it. Being a top chef is hard work – what is the toughest part? Most people think it’s the long hours. That’s not too bad because when you are busy the time flies by and also I love what I do so it doesn’t seem like hard work. I think the most difficult part is getting the work life balance right. One thing I do miss is the socializing. I am a sociable person but when most people are having fun, at the weekends or at Christmas for example, I am the one cooking their food!
Who was your greatest influence?
There have been many influences on my career and my life, but I would have to say the biggest influence is Raymond Blanc. I trained with him and he has been a great mentor to me over the years. Not just in terms of making me a better chef but also helping me with business skills. He is very generous with his time and has become a great friend.
What advice would you give to a young chef starting out?
To get on as a chef you have to take a long-term view. I appreciate that you might be keen to become a head chef overnight but you need to learn the technical aspects of cooking. You need to spend time with as many chefs as possible in as many places as possible so you can study different techniques. Ultimately you need to give yourself the time and the opportunity to learn as much as possible. Like everything in life…... What you put in is what you get out.
Thank you Michael.
Michael Caines MBE - Executive Head Chef, Gidleigh Park.
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