To celebrate British Food Fortnight, we met up with Peter Jupp, Holiday Inn Rugby-Northampton’s Head Chef, to hear his career story in his 48th year of being a Chef.
What got you into a career as a Chef?
I started as a chef when I was 14 years old in Bournemouth and I realised that, simply, I love cooking.
2 years later, in 1973, I joined the Army as an Apprentice. Completing the Apprenticeship at 18 years old, I moved to Germany.
You were a Chef in the Army for a long time – what was that experience like?
I was in the Army for 20 years, serving (in both meanings of the word) all over the world – Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Gulf. I worked in Canada in operational positions, including 6 months as a Chef in the Rockies. My final role was Head Chef, which wasn’t really hands-on, it was more of a management position.
Being a Chef in the Army really was quite different from anything else. I used to do a lot of competitions which was something different from the day-to-day and really kept spirits high.
What is your proudest achievement from being a Chef in the Army?
… I cooked for the Queen.
What was next for you and your Cheffing career?
Leaving the Army in 1992 (after 20 years) I stepped into my first civilian job as a Catering Development and Training Manager – I developed menus, managed and improved kitchens and trained other Head Chefs. After a while, I started to miss having my own kitchen and my own brigade, so I moved to manage a large family pub (210 covers a night!).
It was at that pub that I had a moment of affirmation about my career choice: On an August bank holiday, we had a massive day with some particularly fiery customers. At the end of the night, after closing up, I was on my own. I remember standing behind the bar having a beer, looking out over the calm after the storm, and I thought… I enjoy this.
So, at this point in your career, you were a General Manager, how did you get back into becoming a full-time Chef?
By this time, I had a family and 3 young children – but I was working far away and 6+ days a week so I never saw them. I made the decision to look for something closer and ended up as a Contract Manager, working for large catering companies running various kitchens across different industries. Again, craving my own kitchen and my own team, I decided to get back to that one thing that simply made me happy – being a Head Chef.
You’ve been with Kew Green Hotels for over 5 years now – what is it that has kept you here?
Kew Green Hotels is a big family, and I’m not sure you genuinely get that in many other companies but it’s just what this place is like. I have always had total backing from my General Manager, she even put me forward for KGH’s Chef of the Year 2018 Award (which I won) – that’s something you can’t give up.
As well as running the kitchen, I have been given so many exciting projects to get involved in since being here including:
KGH MasterChef with HITZ and Premiership Rugby
Student Chef Placements from Lycée Hotelier de l’Hermitage in Lyon, France
Chef School Apprenticeship Programme where I have taken 2 Apprentices – the first has now been with me just over 2 years and is a Chef de Partie; the second is about to complete his Apprenticeship Level one and, mark my words, will be a Head Chef in 3 years.
What is it that you do that engages and inspires these Apprentice Chefs to become so successful, so quickly?
I used to be an instructor – it’s given me the ability to coach. Coaching is equipping them with knowledge and tools, as well as challenging them and keeping them switched on by questioning everything they’re doing.
What is about cooking that has kept your passion alight?
I enjoy coming to work; I enjoy the environment. It keeps me alive.
The changes in trends mean there is always a new and exciting challenge and there’s always something to learn – even for someone as experienced as me. A lot of things I’m doing now I already know from when I started as a Chef in the 70s! Everything comes back around, just with a twist.
What do you love about running a kitchen?
It’s a strong challenge. We have the highest food GP in the company; we have done for a good while now and maintaining that is real work. It gives me something to think about!!”
What do you love to cook?
Fish. It’s delicate and I’m not!
My absolute favourite is Turbot. I love it simple – with buttered, crushed new potatoes and green beans or something.
Do you think the recent trends and changes, like Gluten-Free and Veganism, has been a challenge?
Every menu is a challenge. Everyone has different preferences – it’s not about catering for the masses, it’s catering for each individual taste.
What one bit of advice would you give to someone considering a career as a Chef?
You need to be committed. You need to take the rough with the smooth, there’s more rough than smooth but it’s rewarding, it’s worth it, trust me.
Sweet or savoury?
Savoury… Cheese all the way.
If you’re interested in finding out what a career as a Chef could look like for you, get in touch with Talent Resourcing Executive, Charley, on firstname.lastname@example.org