What’s cooking: Hannah Robinson on patisserie, health and safety and fine dining

We caught up with Hannah Robinson, pastry chef de partie at one of our flagship locations in London. Aged 25, Hannah has a Level 3 City and Guilds qualification in Professional Patisserie that she studied for at Brooklands College in Weybridge, before becoming a chef at BaxterStorey.

What inspired you to be a chef?
I was quite undecided where I saw my future going to be honest. My parents throw a lot of dinner parties and I often help with the cooking. Seeing people enjoy my food makes me happy and it’s built up my confidence. My first job was waitressing when I saw behind the scenes in the kitchen, I thought “I could see myself doing this”. I also watched a lot of cooking programmes and took inspiration from those.

What does a typical day in the kitchen look like for you?
I arrive at work for 7am and set up my section ready for the day. I support the chefs with breakfast service, whether it’s a continental, al a carte or a business bento box – it’s all hands-on deck! Before the lunch service, I’ll often make a start on preparing desserts and cakes for hospitality and baking cookies for the meeting rooms; they’re a customer favourite especially when they’re freshly baked from oven!

Lunch service is between 12-2:30pm, from the word go it’s non-stop! I often get involved in buffets, al a carte, fine dining or an artisan sandwich offer. A fun part of my job is preparing the cream teas – they’re the best opportunity for me to be creative and make sweet treats to impress customers! I work closely with our apprentice chef Megan, who supports me with the pastry section. Recently I’ve been teaching her how to make the cakes – it’s great to see her learn and develop.

Some days I work the evening shifts, whether it’s a six-course tasting menu, fine dining dinner, or street food pop up. Some days can be tiring and high pressured to ensure the food is to the highest of standards, but it’s also very rewarding when we receive great feedback.

What advice would you give to young female chefs starting out in their career?
Be confident in yourself. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. It’s not always seen as an easy career choice but don’t give up on your passion because once you find your feet, it’s amazing to see what you can achieve.

Being a chef is so much more than just cooking – it’s creativity, menu writing, food hygiene… if people got to see the other side, I think young females would be a lot more inclined to apply for a chef role. Women can be head chefs too!

How do you find working in a male dominated environment?
I genuinely enjoy it! No matter what level chef you are, we all respect each other. The males in our team are a laugh, they don’t take things too seriously. Although, I think females are more compassionate so it’s good to have a balance.

What are your future ambitions?
I love what I do, I really enjoy pastry! I take a huge interest in kitchen health and safety. My mentor Scott Dineen has put me forward as a department Health and Safety ambassador. I chair the monthly health and safety meeting and I’m an allergen champion for the site. I’d love to focus on this side of hospitality more.

What’s your signature dish?
That’s a tough question! Customers seem to love my bavoir dome with a mirror glaze, it’s so shiny! At home I love to make cakes. My most recent one was for Father’s Day, my Dad gave me the brief of honeycomb, brownie, cheesecake and Oreo!

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