Master Chef and National Chef of the Year winner Steve Groves is cool, calm, collected and really knows his stuff when it comes to being in a kitchen. Steve believes in learning on the job, taking the time and effort to really absorb knowledge from other kitchens and chefs… All whilst making the most of his family life by working as Head Chef in a Monday – Friday kitchen at Roux in Parliament Square.
00:00:00 Marks Introduction
00:02:19 Meeting Steve, setting the scene in Parliament Square Restaurant
00:03:35 Being in MasterChef in 2009 and the risks that came with it
- 00:04:43 “I don’t know what happened! I was on a day off, and I just kind of thought… Maybe give it a go, push yourself. Get yourself out there.”
- 00:06:28 “I gave myself a rule at the beginning: never prepare for any ‘round the oven’ already qualified for – so I could do a little bit of practice, it was tough in the kitchen because there was never really time to take some time out and practice a dish.”
00:08:58 The filming and episode schedule of MasterChef – keeping it a secret for six months, even telling people he had lost!
00:10:48 Is it as tense in real life as it is on TV?
- 00:11:07 “The waiting is insane. I think it’s probably a couple of hours of keeping us waiting.”
00:11:48 How did it feel when Steve found out he had won?
00:12:41 What made Steve decide to move up to London, away from Bournemouth?
- 00:13:00 “I went to catering college as something to fall back on, but I really enjoyed it at catering college… Won chef of the year there, was offered the best placement they had which was in America, so I went out to there…”
- 00:15:30 “I’ve always had a fear of being a really average chef, doing a really average job. I’ve always wanted more.”
00:18:13 The toughest part of working in London
- 00:18:20 “The life in Bournemouth was fantastic: loads of friends, plenty of time off, the hours were pretty sociable… I could walk along the beach in the morning to go to work…”
- 00:19:32 “I’d go home and just feel thoroughly depressed because I say home, but you were going back to a room with nothing in it [talking about London]”
00:21:08 The jump from fish and chips, burgers and a la carte to MasterChef
00:22:01 What did Steve do after winning MasterChef?
- 00:24:05 “In that time, I jumped up from Chef de Partie to Junior Sous Chef and then bumped up to Senior Sous Chef.”
00:26:23 Noma, Buckingham Palace, the Ledbury, and the Greenhouse
00:27:49 What is Staging in terms of cooking?
- 00:27:55 “Stage is essentially going to work somewhere for free to gain some experience – it’s a great way of getting in and having a look and doing it.”
- 00:29:29 “If someone is coming in to us to literally just have a look at what we are doing, I take that as a massive compliment as a chef. So I will make sure we look after them nicely, really try and encourage them to see as much as possible.”
00:30:53 What is Stevens style of food? Is it similar to Michel Roux?
- 00:32:18 “When I first came in, I was sous chef so I wasn’t actually cooking my own food as such but the approach has always been slightly different. It’s always been a bit more contemporary I’d say, and a bit less French almost.”
- 00:34:07 “We wanted to make it feel more luxurious, cosy… Nice kind of plush furnishings, a real richness to it which I kind of felt would tie in with the food a bit better.”
00:34:37 Being Head Chef at Roux for six years, and what it’s like to cook there
00:35:35 The changing world of Chefs – racing up the ranks
- 00:36:57 “We’ve got so much information in our hands in terms of the internet, YouTube, things like that. We can learn so many different things so quickly – and with social media, you don’t have to go into someone else’s kitchen to see what they are doing.”
00:38:23 Was MasterChef a pivotal point in making people aware of how hard cooking is?
- 00:39:36 “People have been looking at the cheffing industry and the restaurant industry and realising what goes into it.”
00:40:10 Has the culture in kitchens changed?
- 00:40:24 “I mean Gordon [Ramsey] is an example – yeah, he’s obviously very direct in what he wants. But at the same time, you look at how long a lot of those people worked for him – so he can’t be all that bad.”
- 00:43:24 “It’s really important to have that time and reflect on what you’re doing and how you’re organising yourself and ideas for new dishes and stuff like that.”
00:43:33 Staff at Roux and their 4 day weeks
- 00:44:00 “There’s probably been, in the past few years, two or three weeks where we’ve had to ask the guys to do a bit extra.”
00:45:35 The interest and growth of the hospitality industry
- 00:48:18 “That kind of motivated, energised, positive attitude and atmosphere is actually running through the whole brigade… Just kind of make sure its everyone looking out for each other, front of house and back of house.”
00:49:58 How Steve looks at recruiting staff, ensuring they fit into the group
00:51:20 The perception of it being a difficult time to find chefs – does Steve see many looking ofr chef jobs?
- 00:51:54 “I never used to want to advertise jobs here as being Monday to Friday, because I thought that would attract people for the wrong reasons. So I never used to put that on the ads… But I had to start last year.”
- 00:52:26 “It’s about looking after the people you do have and making sure you’re retaining staff more than necessarily keeping them coming through.”
00:53:35 Does Roux offer the opportunity to work at the other restaurants too?
00:54:28 Back to Steve – becoming ‘National Chef of the Year’
- 00:56:39 “It’s a great competition, I’ve wanted to be in it for years, I’ve always looked at it but there’s always been a reason I couldn’t make it.”
- 01:00:07 “You’ve kind of so much practiced that timeline, that you’ve almost kind of rehearsed a script or a play that you are kind of just dancing your way through… Then you find it harder to adjust when things don’t go your way.”
01:00:41 What did Steve make for National Chef of the Year?
- 01:01:01 “I think you’ve got to be mindful of who you’re cooking for, for these things. Same with MasterChef and any competition really. Be mindful of who your judges are and what they’ll appreciate.”
01:04:25 Was the National Chef of the Year as tense as MasterChef? How did it feel to win?
- 01:04:47 “I am my own worst critic, so because of that I thought – nah, I haven’t won it. Thought maybe I’d come in top three hopefully, so when they read out third place, second place – I though… Oh no, I didn’t even make top three. And it genuinely came as a massive surprise… It was quite emotional actually.”
01:07:31 What does Steve do for Christmas? What are his favourite dishes?
- 01:07:48 “A Sunday roast is my favourite thing to cook at home. Christmas dinner is a more elaborate version than that.”
- 01:08:23 “We’ll probably get a lovely French chicken. French chickens are just really good, the way they are farmed, they develop really good flavour…”
01:09:22 Being a restaurant and finding the best produce
- 01:10:01 “One thing I’ve kind of learnt is that if you’re getting the best quality ingredients, you don’t have to ask it – just treat it with care.”
01:10:59 Does Steven get offers to open his own restaurant and expand?
- 01:11:49 “I don’t really want to open somewhere right now. IT’s a really tough time for the industry, it’s really uncertain. I don’t think the grass is necessarily always greener… I very much appreciate what I’ve got here.”
01:14:40 Why does Steve think the industry is struggling?
- 01:15:15 “There’s been so many restaurants opening. There is a staff shortage because there’s so many restaurants popping up all the time and it’s harder for the smaller kind of independent restaurants to compete with the chains.”
01:15:34 Where does Steve see the growth in the restaurant industry? In the casual dining sector…
01:18:02 If you’re looking to get into the industry, what advice does Steve have?
- 01:18:40 “You’re not going to achieve anything without going above and beyond. Go into a kitchen where you really feel that you’re going to be able to learn, people are going to spend time with you…”
01:21:51 What is the most rewarding part of Steve’s job now?
01:23:13 Where can you go to find out more about Steve and Roux?
01:25:05 Marks sign off and final thoughts
If you’d like to learn more about Steve, his journey and Roux – check out their website and social channels below… Or, listen to the full episode here.
Facebook: Roux at Parliament Square