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Chef Stories: Working Together

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, then you’ll know that our head chef, Benn Hodges is a very experienced, and frankly awesome addition to the EatFirst team. Due to his background of working in many kitchens, he’s brought a lot of wisdom, stories and leadership to EatFirst. We decided to utilise this and transform his knowledge into a blog series called, “Chef Stories”. The first in this series is devoted to Benn’s thoughts on working with the other EatFirst chefs, the positives and challenges of communication, and the importance of motivation.

Last week Daniel Budde, Global Food Manager, came to visit our kitchen in London for a few days, to work with Benn and his team on the EatFirst recipes. It was a productive week and our kitchen was buzzing! We’ve tied his stay into the article, enjoy:

So, Benn, it was obviously exciting to have Daniel work in the kitchen! Could you outline the reason for his visit?

Daniel’s visit to London gave us both the opportunity to put our heads together and produce more awesome recipes for our customers. We did some recipe development, product research, sampling, as well as tested out cooking techniques. It was fun but also, great to finally spend a good amount of time working together!

All the EatFirst chefs are located in London or Berlin. What are the positives of this separation? Does it pose challenges in terms of communication?

It’s great that we have different chefs from around the world. The London cuisine offer is a complete contrast to Berlin’s, which gives us a huge variety of recipes to work with. Luckily all the chefs get along well, obviously, we all voice our opinions which can sometimes differ, it’s usually only over small details, though and a lot of the time I put it down to a language barrier; it can be tricky to discuss things over Skype or email. But no matter where chefs are from, generally we all understand one another through sharing one common passion: food.

EatFirst isn’t a ‘normal’ restaurant, we don’t offer the familiar process of being seated, ordering via a waiter, waiting for the food etc. This must change the atmosphere and pressure in the kitchen. Does this improve your communication with the other chefs?

The pressures of service are very different to an a la carte restaurant. We have more time to plan and use IT to help make our operation more efficient. However, this doesn’t change the fact that we still need to produce dishes of top quality, all in a specific time frame. So it does get busy and fast-paced but we do manage to communicate well, which ensures a smoothly operated kitchen!

As you’re now running the London kitchen, what’re your methods for motivating your team?

We have a great spirit in our kitchen and leading by example is always a good way to motivate any team. Also, chefs are easy to inspire when you have an organised and well-structured kitchen, which is filled with all kinds of good-quality ingredients to experiment with.

We’re sure Daniel made an impression while he was here. What was your favourite moment?

Having Daniel here was a blast! It’s so beneficial to the business and great to have the opportunity for the chefs to not only have creative control over the food but work together and develop a menu and recipes that are so unique. I really enjoyed working with Daniel as we both share a passion for Asian flavours, and it’s very rare to meet chefs with a deep knowledge of Japanese ingredients. It certainly makes creating recipes easier and less disjointed as things just flow!


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