Luke is a star chef in the making

June 2015

Level 3 Professional Cookery student Luke Dcaccia has gained valuable work experience in the kitchens of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. 

Luke’s first experience of the hotel’s restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, was back in June last year when he was invited to work in the kitchens. This summer, he was accepted back for a two-day trial working as a commis chef. 

“On my first day, I was given a tour of the kitchen, and then it was straight to work,” said Luke. “I did the preparation for mise en place, such as picking herbs and peeling vegetables, and plated cold starters during the lunch and evening service ready for the chef to perform the finishing touches. I learned how to be precise and how to pace myself – you have to be fast to get through 80 covers for lunch!” 

As a commis chef, Luke’s working day didn’t end until very late in the evening, but he learned a lot about cooking in a busy kitchen – and he had to continue to put his skills to the test on his second day. 

“This time I was working on the hot starters, which is harder because the food has to be plated and served to guests very quickly. The dish I was preparing was tricky: a delicately poached and fried soft egg with a crumble topping that had to be gently placed on a bed of creamed watercress and puree. 

“Once I’d done the first few tables, preparing the starters became easier – you develop a pattern of working that fits the process. Also, you have to keep it together when you have a two Michelin-star head chef watching you!” 

After the service, Luke was given an hour to produce a vegetarian main course. He used his talent and creativity to make a summer vegetable stew with a parmesan crisp and crispy egg yolk. The Executive Head Chef, Gary Jones, was very impressed and offered Luke a job starting in September. 

“The experience was truly great,” said Luke. “It’s opened my eyes to what working in a high profile restaurant is really like. You need to work hard and be determined, but it’s worth it in the end. I learned that, to be successful, you have to believe in yourself.”  

Luke made contact with two of my ex-students who have worked at Le Manoir for a few years. Since Luke started his work experience he has settled in well and grown in confidence. He is very well-suited to this kind of work and he has a great career ahead of him.

Gary Goldsmith, lecturer at the UCB College of Food