Q&A with Head Chef John Woodward
We managed to grab our very busy Chef Director, John Woodward to gain a little insight into his day to day role in the business and thoughts on current food trends.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
It has to be the fast-paced nature, nothing is ever the same. There is always variety and change, both in the kitchen and in my day to day role. It’s not a 9-5 job sat in an office, I'm constantly trying and experiencing new things and being creative. On top of that, I love having the freedom to build a team I can be proud of and watch them grow and produce wonderful new dishes.
For all the apprentices reading - do you have any advice on how to get into the industry?
Apprenticeship obviously! Seriously, I am really looking forward to helping young and fresh talent over the coming weeks. It's exactly how I became a chef; I did one day at college while working at Hilton Park Lane, and then I got the Mal apprenticeship. I can't stress this enough - you can’t work out of a book, the industry is about experience.
What makes a good chef?
Commitment, passion and consistency. You have to have strong willpower and love cooking; it’s easy to cook a good steak, but cooking a perfect steak every single time, every single day is what separates a cook from a chef.
What would you tell someone who thinks they might want to become a chef?
Make sure it’s definitely what you want. If you love your job and give 100% then you will be successful, but it will take hard work and dedication. Remember that you will start at the bottom and work your way up through the actions you do every single day. It's the same as any other job in that if you love what you do you will have a rewarding and enjoyable career. Someone once told me not to chase the money, and they were right. I have never asked for a pay rise as I have always felt privileged to have a job I love at a company where I can express myself. Bide your time, don't be impatient. Success will come.
What is the thing you are most proud of in your career?
Becoming Chef Director for Malmaison, and also my time working at the Michelin-starred canteen.
What's your favourite current food trend?
Smoked short ribs and brisket, but not the American style. There are some great modern twists and experimentation on the smoke flavour, and that’s something we're really excited about.
In your opinion, what's the worst current food trend?
De-constructed food. If you can make a really good lemon tart, why change it? Why not just serve good food that people will enjoy?
How did you decide you wanted to work for Malmaison?
Malmaison is a creative, exciting brand that is always trying new things and takes influence from a wide range of places, whilst always remaining consistent. I liked how the same dish had the same fantastic taste and presentation no matter where in the country you were. I also saw that it would give me the freedom to progress myself as a chef, stay on top of food trends and work with an amazing team.
Now that I'm Chef Director I put a lot of effort into making it the kind of place I would apply to work for if I was starting over again, with a fun atmosphere, loads of input from the team, one to one tuition, our Chef Academy to spot bright talent and regular cook offs where chefs can really show me what they've got.