Don’t be afraid to fail, learn by your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them and GROW!
I'm Zak, I'm head chef at the Talbot Hotel in Oundell.
At South Essex College I studied the NVQ Level 2 In Professional Cookery. I originally studied my A-Levels at Greensward Academy. After completing those, I had a position available at Derby University to study Engineering. I subsequently turned it down to follow my passion for cooking.
I went into the apprenticeship at a restaurant called Elderberry in Rayleigh. I found the course very enjoyable, I had a huge amount of support from the tutors and it was definitely the right place. After the course I had the fantastic opportunity to go and work in France for three years. I went to work for a famous pastry chef called Frederic Bau who is the creative director at Valrhona, at his restaurant Umia.
When I returned home, as it so happens, I fell in to applying for Professional Masterchef and had the fantastic opportunity of being on TV. I was punching well above my weight.
After professional Masterchef, a good friend of mine was head chef here at the Talbot and he approached me to become a sous chef.
Being a head chef is very rewarding, but at the same time it is also difficult. You have to be at the top of your game and have a good team under you that you trust to perform to your expectations and to the best of their ability.
The Talbot Hotel is a sixteenth century coaching inn, acquired by The Coaching Inn Group a couple of years ago. We are part of a group of 13 sites across the UK that are left to run independently of each other so that the client gets a very unique service.
To anyone out there considering a career in catering, just do it. Don't be afraid of commitment, hard work or the hours.
The trade is very different from how it was 10-15 years ago where you were working all the hours under the sun. There are now unions and laws in place, that allow you to lead a very comfortable life style while pursuing the career want.
On a typical day my team will work from 10am until 3pm, and then back from 6pm until 9pm. Alternatively they will do 12pm until 9 or 10pm. They will have a morning briefing with me or my sous chef, and then will divide up the jobs for the day and work through them. The team know that will have 100% support throughout the day. The best thing about this is that there is no rule book in terms of what you can and can't cook. You are only limited by your palette and your imagination. There are many different roads you can follow in this career, from management, pastry bakery, fishmongery, butchery to working on vegetarian food. The scope is so broad that even if you don't find what you want to do in catering at first, you can still find it in five or 10 years and be happy.
My current five-year-plan is to stay here and develop the Talbot into one of the best restaurants in the area. To any youngster who is worried about this trade, I would say don't be afraid to fail, learn by your mistakes, but don't dwell on them and GROW!