3 Chefs in a kitchen

What it’s like to have one of the tastiest jobs in the business

Jess Birch our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 07 January 2020
 
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Senior Food Development Manager, Daniel Wilkes, reveals what it’s like to have one of the tastiest jobs in the business. In every kitchen across our 1,700 pubs and restaurants, our chefs serve up delicious dishes daily - with a little help from our Food Development Team. It may be behind the scenes but it’s one of the tastiest jobs in our business!

 
 
 


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Working in this team means you have to know your onions from your shallots! The team work behind the scenes to ensure that the product sourcing, training and supply chain behind the operation means that the dishes they have dreamed up, then get delivered to happy guests in our pubs and restaurants across the country.

Daniel Wilkes, Senior Food Development Manager at Mitchells & Butlers, explains the process of making sure a dish is perfected before it makes it to a customer’s plate. “The team and I tend to work on a brief for a particular topic such as a summer menu for one of three brands that I work on; Toby Carvery, Harvester and Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery. Upon receiving the brief, we then work up a proposal and prepare initial ideas for the menu, with costings.”

Once that is completed, the team then spends time cooking, developing and refining these dishes, so they can be presented to the brand teams in a variety of food shows to gather feedback. Daniel explains that the dishes they create are often unique to the individual brand, “Working in our Food Team, we make sure that the dishes that get developed by our Development Chefs, reflect the brand, kitchen facilities and food skill levels of the team who will be serving up the dishes to our guests. I think it is really important to create unique dishes for our brands that you can’t get anywhere else, from the jerk ribs in Harvester to the miso rice bowl in All Bar One. Dishes like these showcase the chef’s skill and flair and can often become iconic dishes with our guests and teams.”

In addition to developing the menu items, the team looks for ways to tap into the latest dining and consumer trends and looking at ways to adopt them for each brand. “We regularly research trends and gather inspiration from all over, to try and understand the appropriate time for a flavour, trend or dish to land in our market.”

Daniel’s job involves constantly tweaking and improving dishes and subtly evolving each brand to keep pace with trends, but when a brand needs a complete refresh, Daniel and his team play a major part. “One of the most exciting projects I worked on recently was ‘Harvester 2020’. Our team worked tirelessly for a year, looking at every aspect of the dining experience starting with the menu, even researching bespoke crockery, glassware and uniforms. We worked together with the Harvester Team to build something really special that has moved the brand on tremendously.” Although not one to pick favourites, Daniel explains that he is very proud of one particular development, “I’m really proud of our new extensive ribs section that is on our main menu. We showcase regular ribs, large racks, 1kg smoked racks, half kilo beef ribs and my favourite, the jerk spiced ribs with spiced rum BBQ sauce!”

For Daniel, there is no better feeling than creating dishes that go on to become successful that chefs enjoy cooking and guests enjoy eating. However, it’s not just the Food Development Team that are at the steering wheel of the menus at Mitchells and Butlers, as we regularly host ‘takeover days’ for each of the pubs and restaurants, where our Retail Support Team can also have their say on the dishes they will be serving up to their guests.

And spending his work hours surrounded by food hasn’t put him off, in fact Daniel often experiences his dishes as a guest by visiting his local Stonehouse to treat his family to a pizza and sometimes may even indulge in his guilty pleasure - a midweek Toby Carvery roast!


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Our stories

The inside scoop: what it's like to be back working in a pub after Covid-19

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It’s been just over three months since the doors of our pubs, restaurants and bars closed and our teams hung up their chef whites and poured their last pints.  The moment our government announced that we could reopen, the M&B family got busy preparing our pubs and restaurants so we were ready to safely welcome our guests again. We spoke to Casey who works as waiting staff at one of our businesses to find out what her time away from the pub has been like and how she feels after her first week back to work. Here’s the inside scoop: What role do you do and how long have you been with M&B? For the last three years, I’ve worked for M&B as a Team Member at the Plough in Harrow, which is one of our Premium Country Pubs. The flexibility of this job has allowed me to gain some great experience in the hospitality industry whilst studying for my degree at university. What did you miss most while away from work?Just being productive, admittedly I fell into a bit of a rut during the lockdown and felt like I would accomplish nothing with my days, there are only so many zoom quizzes and Netflix series you can watch. Being back at work, back with my team and seeing the regulars has really helped me to mentally get out of that rut and get back to my old self.How did you feel coming back to work?At first, I was nervous and quite anxious at the idea of coming back to my restaurant job, but once I was made aware of the new procedures that have been put in place and I saw them in action I was instantly eased. M&B has been really supportive throughout the lockdown, sharing regular updates on what’s happening within the business and giving us all the information we need on new procedures to make the return to work as seamless as possible.What was the first order you took when your pub reopened? It was a table of two of our regulars who shared that they couldn’t wait to come back to see us. They ordered a Dirty Burger with added halloumi and 7oz Fillet Steak, medium with beef dripping sauce and a side of onion rings. Our regulars probably know the menu as well as we do and know how to put together a mouth-watering meal.What has it been like working in a pub since they reopened?I thought I would have forgotten how to do everything, having been away from my waiting job for such a long time, but once I stepped back into the pub everything came flooding back. It has been so nice to be reunited with the team and the transition has been much easier than I thought it would be. Every single guest has been lovely and really understanding which has made us even happier to be back. What has been changed in your pub post lockdown?There has been a lot to learn and get to grips with since we have reopened our Premium Country Pubs, but I’m grateful that these new measures are in place because it makes the pub feel like a safe place to work. The changes have been carefully planned so that you still get that warm and inviting pub feel and we have had lots of positive feedback from our guests which has been lovely!A couple of the main changes are…We ask all our guests to sanitise their hands when they arrive, and we explain the new safety measures to them.We do more detailed cleaning throughout the day for example, after each guest leaves we clean all table surfaces, table legs, chairs and chair legs before the next guests are seated.All our menus are now paper disposal ones, they are thrown away after our guests have used them.There is social distancing throughout the pub – our table layout has been changed to ensure our tables are at a safe social distance and there are social distancing signs around the pub to remind everybody of the new measures.How do you feel after your first week back and what’s been your favourite part?It’s really good to be back, the pub feels really safe and our guests are happy. It’s almost like there wasn’t a 3-month break (although my feet are adjusting more slowly to the new routine)! Being reunited with the team and welcoming our regulars back to the pub has easily been the best part of coming back to the work. We’ve kept in touch virtually as a team during the lockdown, but nothing beats seeing each other face to face.Find out more about #lifeatmabWe’re over the moon to have welcomed Casey back but the since the safety of our guests and staff is our number one priority we’re making sure that any changes made are in line with government guidelines. It’s the hard work of Casey and the rest of the team that has helped us provide a brilliant service for our guests, where everyone is safe, comfortable and reunited with their perfectly cooked 7oz Fillet Steak. Want to join the M&B family? Explore our bar jobs or find your perfect opportunity by searching our head chef jobs.

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It’s been just over three months since the doors of our pubs, restaurants and bars closed and our teams hung up their chef whites and poured their last pints. Here's Casey's story about what her first week back has been like.

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Steph  Baker

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What it’s like to work as a Kitchen Skills Trainer with Mitchells & Butlers?

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️1️1 Mitchells & Butlers has 16 brands and over 1,500 pubs and restaurants spanning across the UK. All of our pubs and restaurants are looking for the next exciting dish that can offer a unique experience to each one of our guests. Much of the responsibility for this lies with our Kitchen Skills Trainers who work hard to develop new dishes and ensure our kitchens know how to bring them to life.To find out more about the role, we caught up with Daniel McLaughlin, Kitchen Skills Trainer with Mitchells & Butlers.     22 Tell us a little bit about your career journey so far? I joined Mitchells & Butlers because I liked what the company stood for. It’s people first & creating quality food. I joined as a Sous Chef and worked my way up through from Kitchen Manager to Accredited Kitchen Manager. Then I had the opportunity for a six-month secondment in the Pre-Openings team, responsible for the logistics and preparation for every Mitchells & Butlers pub and restaurant new opening and refurbishment. This was a great opportunity for me to understand more about different training styles. My aspiration has always been to be a Kitchen Skills Trainer, so I was really happy 18 months ago when I managed to make the jump to the next level. So, what’s involved in your day to day role? A big part of my role is to support menu development – everything from new menu ideas to deciding how each dish can be created in the kitchen. I consult the marketing team to look at how we can create new, exciting dishes in our kitchens. We have to ensure we have everything from the right kitchen equipment to training our kitchen leaders to make sure every dish is cooked to perfection! I’m really proud of the role I played to create the launch of the Moving Mountains burger in Vintage Inns pubs. I helped to develop a digital video module for our kitchen & waiting teams to watch, not only to find out how to cook, prepare and handle the new dish, but also to help understand why guests may choose the burger. What’s your biggest piece of to someone looking to climb the kitchen career ladder? Resilience is key, to make sure you can adapt to a fast-paced, ever changing environment. At Mitchells & Butlers there is a phenomenal network of Kitchen Skills Trainers and chefs who have the experience to help you progress. So definitely use them! Inspired by Daniel’s kitchen career journey? Head over to our kitchen jobs page, to find out more about a kitchen career with Mitchells & Butlers.

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