What’s Cooking: Charlotte Becke On Coaching, the Chef Academy and Quirky Bird

As we go behind the scenes with some of our female chefs this week, we chatted to Charlotte Becke, chef manager based in Fareham. Aged 42, Charlotte joined the BaxterStorey family four years ago for a better work life balance.

What inspired you to be a chef?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking at home with my Mum and Nan. I wasn’t that academic at school and didn’t want to study A Levels but knew I had a love for fresh food, so I joined Portsmouth College to study catering. I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would, I realised I was finally good at something.

Tell us about your career to date.
When I was sixteen, I spent three years studying to be a chef at catering college. I moved to London when I was nineteen, where I worked a crazy 80-hour week as a commis chef at Scott and Mayfair fish restaurant.

Keen to progress, I moved onto Firmdale hotels, working in Dorset Square as a chef de partie and then onto Covent Garden as a sous chef. My husband’s also a chef – it’s handy to be married to someone in the same trade as you understand the long hours that come with being a chef. We always share ideas for new dishes, it’s great for inspiration.

I joined BaxterStorey four years ago as a chef de partie in Eastleigh, and soon after was promoted to sous chef. That’s what led to me joining the Chef Academy, which is the reason why I’m in the role I am today.

Why did you join BaxterStorey?
I wanted a better work life balance, as I was fed up of working weekends and split shifts. I love that BaxterStorey are passionate about local produce and fresh ingredients. I had seen on the company website that BaxterStorey invest in their people and offer lots of development opportunities. When my operations manager Shaun suggested I join the Chef Academy, I jumped at the opportunity! I joined the Level 4 cohort in 2017 and what a fantastic experience it’s been. It’s given me the skills and confidence to totally revolutionise my career.

Once I’d completed the programme in January 2018, I was offered a chef manager role to open a new location in Fareham, managing a team of seven. It was a big step up from sous chef to chef manager, but I’m so grateful I made the jump.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I arrive at work around 6:30am, and first thing first – cup of tea. I prepare breakfast and lunch, in between placing orders, writing time sheets and menu writing for the following week. It’s all hands-on deck during lunch service, especially if we’ve got a customer favourite on the menu – the Coca Cola Quirky Bird chicken always has customers queuing.

After lunch, it’s cashing up, organising any marketing promotions for the following week and I may have to attend the odd client meeting too.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef manager?
Every day is a new challenge. One minute I’m in the kitchen prepping for lunch, the next I’m in the office writing menus and closing the books for the week.

On the Chef Academy we were taught about the importance of coaching. I love to mentor my team to help them progress. I worked closely with my sous chef Russell Jenkins who supported me in the kitchen – it was great to see him learn and develop. He’s recently been offered a chef manager role at another unit, so although I was sad to see him move on, I was so happy for him!

What are the key qualities you need to be a chef manager?
Organisational skills, good listener and delegation.

What is your signature dish?
That’s a tough question! I think it’s got to be pan fried skate wing with sautéed potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli with a brown shrimp and caper lemon and parsley butter.

 

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