Life is sweet for young Claridges chef, Jacob Slaughter. Find out how his passion for food and cooking led him into a tasty career in top hotel catering.
Moving On magazine first met Jacob Slaughter back in 2013 when he studying catering at FE college. As a student reporter for Moving On, he interviewed TV chef Michel Roux Jr and now Jacob is back in London doing what he loves best – cooking and working as a commis chef at Claridge’s Hotel. We caught up with him to find out about how his passion for food has shaped his career so far.
How did you get your current job as a Claridges chef?
“After two weeks of work experience here, I knew I wanted to work and train with Martyn Nail, Claridges executive head chef. There are loads of great opportunities for young chefs here at Claridges – it’s a big hotel with a restaurant, two bars, and banqueting rooms – we can do up to 1000 covers a day – 2000 at Christmas
What is a typical working week like for a Claridges chef?
“I work 65 to 70 hours on a shift basis, with two consecutive days off which aren’t necessarily weekends. I did ten days straight once though, which was madness! It’s hard work but you’re never bored, no two days or hours are the same. Last night we had the Queen dining here for the Gold Service Awards. We got to meet her – we meet a lot of the amazing people who come to eat here!
What inspired you to become a chef?
“I loved cooking when I was young, with both mum and dad. I had a real passion for cooking Mexican food, then Italian and I knew way back that it was what I wanted to do as a job. I did GCSE Catering and GCSE Food technology at school and always had part time jobs in local restaurants in the small town where I grew up.
“The thing about food and cooking is the never-ending possibility of the combinations of different foods, colours, tastes smells and textures. Cooking is the only art form which attacks all five of your senses. You see it on the plate, smell its aromas, you hear the crunch or the fizz, you can touch it with your fingers, as well as tasting it and experiencing the textures and flavours in your mouth. I also love doing the research, discovering ever-evolving new things to cook with. Fermentation is a big thing at the moment but at CIaridges I’m doing a lot of experimenting with smoked fish right now – I love the results! I also love finding out about the wonderful history and culture behind a lot of dishes. I’m always looking for ideas and never a day goes by when I don’t find something new!
You’re a first commis chef at Claridges now – what does the job involve and where do you go from here?
“I’ve been training for two years and I’ve worked in every area of the Claridges kitchen. I’m now in charge of the fish section and I’m training younger chefs. I’m hoping to be promoted to demi chef de partie quite soon. I’m also waiting to hear whether I have won a place on an amazing training course in Spain, set up by the Roca brothers who run the world’s top restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca. I created a tapas dish for the competition using chorizo, squid, burnt aubergine puree and herbs. It’s great to be able to experiment more now I’ve learned the basics. I really hope I get to go to Spain!
What are the hours and pay like for a Claridges chef?
“I work full time – a basic 48 hour week but I do overtime and get paid extra for any banquets I cook for. The hours are long sometimes – when we were cooking for the Queen’s visit, I was getting to work at 6.30 in the morning and not leaving until 10.30 at night! I take home around £1,700 a month before overtime and we get an annual bonus of £700-£900.
What do you want to accomplish as a chef in the future?
“I’d love to get on the Spanish course and I’d like to spend a year in New York working at Blue Hill which is an amazing restaurant with a farm where they grow all their own produce. I’d also like to see Asia and in about nine years’ time, I’d like to open my own restaurant.
What is the best part of your job and the worst?
I love this business, the food and the people and no two days are the same – working with the other young Claridges chefs – we’re like a big family! The only downside is a bit of tiredness occasionally but it’s just a small part of the job.