Name; Gillian Moss
Job Title; Executive Chef
Company; Victoria Warehouse
Hey Gillian, thanks for agreeing to be in the FHN hotseat!
Please tell us a little bit about your career journey – what led you into the hospitality industry?
After discovering designer hand bags at the age of 16, I realised I needed a part time job to be able to fund this new found love. I started working in an Italian restaurant 4 nights a week, at this point still thinking I wanted a career as an international interpreter. But after working in the kitchen for a few months, I really started to enjoy the atmosphere and thrill of cooking. This experience encouraged me to join catering college and pursue a career as a chef. I completed study in 2001 and got my first full time role as a Commis Chef at DeVere Whites, Bolton. I worked here for 15 years and throughout that time worked my way up the ladder and eventually gained a Head Chef title. The rest is history!
You’re now Executive Chef at Victoria Warehouse, tell us about your role and the type of catering and events you work on?
We can host a variety of different event styles, which is what excites me the most about my job. In previous jobs, the role was always pretty standardised, but here I get the opportunity to really put my stamp on things. From private dining experiences for 10, to award dinners for 1,500; we try to work with each client to not only meet their needs - but think outside of the box. The more adventurous the better!
What’s your favourite thing about the role that you do?
It’s definitely the opportunity to work with different people, discuss different foods, get given different event briefs; and this ever-changing job is what keeps it so fresh and exciting for me and my team. It’s very easy to stay static in one kitchen, with the same menu and the same faces every single day – but the ability to make every week different certainly keeps me motivated.
What would you say motivates you everyday?
Seeing how much people appreciate fresh, good quality food and how the food industry has become so versatile from being very flat and constant especially in the English cuisine - people are willing and wanting to try new food ideas.
Throughout your career have you drawn inspiration from anyone in particular? (male or female)
My first ever Exec Chef at De Vere was the late Brian Ward, I was only a Commis Chef when I first started working for him and finished being his sous chef. Throughout this time I learnt about his firm but fair philosophy. Brian was a very firm leader and gave clear instructions and knew what he wanted, if you didn’t adhere to this then he would most certainly let you know! But he was always fair and at the right time would have a laugh and a giggle with all the team, everyone in the team respected him and that showed in the day to day running of all 9 kitchens that we had. Brian had a unique way of teaching whereby he very rarely sat you down and taught you things but as I moved, it became very apparent how much I had actually learnt from Brian without realising.
What do you find most challenging about working in hospitality?
If you asked me this question five years ago, it would have been completely different; but nowadays the biggest challenge has to be allergens, dietaries and ‘fad’ diets. As much as some guests have very serious allergies which need to be accommodated, the struggle tends to be associated with the trends that are circulating at any one time. Diet plans, cutting out certain foods or just trying veganism for a month – these sometimes-temporary choices do have a huge effect on service.
I feel it’s going to restrict a lot of chefs in what they can put on their menus; to ensure every requirement for an event is covered. I can’t see this easing up either – as I’ve seen a continuous growth over the past couple of years.
Do you ever feel pressures of being a female within often a fairly male dominated industry?
I have certainly felt pressure in the past when other male chefs knew that I was career driven and I wanted to get to the top and for some reason they would try and trip me up in numerous ways and make my job harder than it needed to be, but they unknowingly helped me as this made me a stronger chef and manager and made me more determined to get to where I am now. I have built up my own reputation among the catering industry and nowadays I feel its more acceptable for females to be in managerial positions in male dominated environments. There is still the odd guy that will try there luck when they come to work in my team but that is for me to deal with!
What advice would you give to young women who are looking to get into chef-ing?
Learn as much as you can from anyone at every level from the kitchen porters to the MD, don’t stick to just one style of cuisine, be firm and confident and have the banter with the guys. If you put the hard work in then you will eventually reap the rewards.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to travel; so with any time off or planned annual leave, I take the opportunity to jump on a plane and go somewhere hot! I always like to plan my trips in advance so that I can find the best restaurants and eateries to make reservations before my arrival. My favourite culinary experience so far has been at BEAT restaurant at The Cookbook Hotel in Valencia, Spain; ran by Jose Manuel Miguel. It has one Michelin star, and is currently running for their second. Everything was perfect; from the atmosphere, to the food, to the staff. I would highly recommend to anyone travelling to this location.