Alex Riley takes two young rookies into the workplace. Louis and Jess enter the high-pressure world of professional cooking.
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OK, I'm no Jamie Oliver.
But just how do you make a living out of cooking?
On today's episode, we're going to find out
how to make it as a chef, from starting on the
bottom rung of the ladder to working in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
We're reaching boiling point as we throw ourselves
into the world of professional cooking.
Today's rookies will cater for the masses
and get a taste of high-end Michelin-starred cuisine.
They think they can cut the mustard, but can they handle the heat?
Let's find out as we go all over the workplace!
Today's rookies are mad-keen cooks
who not only want to become a top chef,
they also want to own and run their own restaurants.
Modest ambitions, then(!)
I'm Jess, I'm 13, and I want to be a head chef.
My family has a recipe book
and it's been in our house for, I think, three generations.
Soon it will be going on to my mum and then me.
When I leave school, I want to go into the Navy
and I want to do cooking on the boats because you get to travel,
and travelling's a really big thing for me.
I wouldn't say I'm bossy, but...
I... I'm a little bit bossy.
Hi, I'm Louis. I'm 11 years old.
I'm from Scotland and I want to be a chef.
When I was in Toulouse,
I went to this amazing restaurant that was really small.
There was only one member of staff there, doing all the catering,
getting everyone's order.
I kind of wanted to be a chef and he really inspired me.
So the rookies think they can cook in their own kitchens,
but can they do it in a professional environment?
We brought them to Dover to find out.
Now, I've heard a rumour that you guys want to be professional chefs.
-So what do you love about cooking, then?
I love how all the tastes just come together in your mouth.
-I really like making things that go well together.
-Yeah? What about you,
-I just like making people happy, and food makes me happy,
so if I cook food for other people, hopefully I'll make THEM happy.
That sounds lovely, that! I can't wait for you to make me
-happy with a beautiful plateful of food.
OK, so you're pretty confident that you've got what it takes,
but what do your mum and dad think?
Louis probably wanted to be a chef when he was about three.
He did a very good three-cheese souffle.
He forgets to tidy up after.
That's my job as kitchen porter.
She's really good in the kitchen. The food's lovely.
The state of the kitchen when she comes out afterwards,
however, is a different matter.
And she can be a bit clumsy as well
so we do sometimes hear the odd pots falling on the floor.
Bearing in mind, you know, it's knives and heat
and boiling water and things like that.
I'm amazed that she hasn't had more food-related injuries than she has!
Both your parents said that you're terrible at clearing up after
yourselves. You cook something, but there's a mountain of washing-up.
No, I clean up after myself all the time. My parents are lying.
There's just certain, select objects that like to stay burnt to the
bottom of the pan. That's when my mum's speciality comes in.
-So you clear up everything unless it's really dirty?
And what about you? Why aren't you washing up as you go along?
You should have a bowl with hot, soapy water in it.
As you go along is the way to do it.
-That's what mums are for.
There's no mums when you're a professional chef!
OK, well, it's about time we got cracking with the first task,
-so are you ready?
-Come on, then, let's go.
Food hasn't always been served in courses.
In the UK, French service, where all the food is brought at once,
used to be the norm.
Russian service, where dishes come out one at a time, was popularised
in Britain in the 19th century by French chefs
like the great Auguste Escoffier.
He was the first person to give cooks individual roles in the
kitchen, meaning he could serve hundreds simultaneously and make
sure everyone's food was perfectly cooked and arrived on time.
Most chefs work 12-hour shifts and many of them work six days a week.
They also work late at night and early in the morning,
so if you want to be a chef, say goodbye to your weekends.
-OK, have you got any idea what your first assignment's going to be?
No, only joking. Come with me.
You're actually going to be working...
It's a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy and you're going to be
in the galley, helping to prepare a meal for almost 200 hungry sailors!
-How do you feel about that?
-It's going to be brilliant!
Well, come on, then. Better get cracking.
Launched in 1998, HMS Kent is one of the newest Type 23 frigates
within the Royal Navy.
There's no nipping off to the shops for a pint of milk
when at sea, so these guys have to be well-stocked.
In fact, during a seven-month deployment,
the crew ate 20,000 sausages and 30,000 eggs!
These guys really are hungry sailors.
Our rookies will have their work cut out.
Captain Dan Thomas meets Jess and Louis on board
before leading them to the galley to meet their first mentors.
This is Leading Chef Jones.
He's going to be in charge this afternoon.
Best of luck and I'll see you later on.
Leading Chef Jones has cooked his way to the top
within the Royal Navy.
During his 12 years of service, he's earned two medals,
cooked on five ships
and visited over 50 countries, spanning five continents.
Hello, everyone. I'm Leading Chef Jones.
Welcome to HMS Kent's main galley.
We've got a very busy day ahead of us today, but first things first,
-want to get into these whites we can get started?
Have you got one for me?
OK, then, both, before I get you peeling all these potatoes,
these are my top three tips to becoming a chef.
First one is teamwork.
This is absolutely paramount, being a chef.
If you're an organised chef, it will make your life a lot easier.
Thirdly, patience. You're going to have chefs
from all sorts of backgrounds, different skill levels.
You need patience when you're teaching people in the galley.
So Chef Jones's top tips are...
organisation - there's lots of preparation
and getting dishes out on time.
Teamwork - you've got to work as a unit in this game.
And patience - a chef won't learn everything overnight
so you've got to be willing to put the time in.
OK. This is a potato rumbler.
This is a vital bit of equipment in the galley, OK?
This saves a lot of time with rumbling spuds,
everything from 100, 150, 200 sailors, OK?
-So take a handful of the potatoes and throw them in.
-Why don't you use a potato peeler?
-Cos this saves so much time.
-How long is the training?
-About seven to eight months.
You join the ship as a junior chef, a bit wet behind the ears,
not really knowing much, and then the leading chefs like myself
will progress you, moving from dish to dish to dish
until you feel comfortable as a competent chef.
Do you have to have any cookery... prior knowledge
-to come into the Navy?
-No, absolutely not.
The Navy will provide all your chef training
if you want to progress with your catering career.
It's a fantastic thing, will be handy.
To come from the Armed Forces into civilian environment,
it's going to stand you in good stead, like.
That's it, all the way up.
Good, that's another batch done.
Louis has been paired with Chef White
to slice the beef for the stroganoff.
Watch those fingers, Louis!
-Do you have any other jobs during the Navy?
-Yeah, we get lots of jobs.
We can either be a first-aider or a firefighter.
If there's a fire, you have to put on a fire suit
and go to the incident.
And Jess has been partnered with Chef Parsons to prepare
the chicken roulade.
Literally, a little pinch of cheese just over the top of the peppers.
-Just like this?
-Yep, that's good.
Do you prefer, like, cooking in bulk, for loads of people?
People that work in restaurants,
I don't really understand how they do it.
Someone could order ten different things at one table.
What's the difference between a galley and a restaurant
-and a kitchen?
-In a restaurant, you get a rush between lunchtime at 12
and all through the night, but onboard, your rush is constant
so it's breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
If you're in defence watches, which we do sometimes,
-you serve four meals a day...
-..so it's a constant rush.
I was always driven by all things in the kitchen.
I remember growing up as a kid as a sort of nine-year-old boy,
it was my favourite place.
'I think food and cooking is perhaps
'one of the most important life skills
'that we can all teach ourselves or someone else can teach us.
'The best moment of my career's got to be about the Dragons' Den
'when I came on, but I think the most fulfilling part is
'when I went to a high-street store'
and saw my product, my brand,
'in there and outselling one of the major products, you know,
'of a similar kind in the store'
so I'm very proud of that moment.
Our rookies are getting to grips with the quantities in feeding
a hungry ship's crew.
-When will you know that you've got enough chocolate on there?
-I think we need a bit more chocolate.
That's all the cooking complete now. Now comes the cleaning.
This is all new territory for you, isn't it?
-Cleaning up after yourselves.
Ah, no, come on, put your back into it.
There's all bits here. Look at the state of it!
Don't just do the bottom,
the whole thing's got to be as shiny as a new penny.
Final garnishes are applied before the hatch is opened
to the hungry hordes.
And it's up to the rookies to dish up the grub.
Stroganoff for me, please.
-Is that it?
Have you seen that?
-Hiya, what would you like?
-Can I have some veg?
-Er, yeah. Would you like all of it?
-Yes, I'm going to need it!
-Is that it?
Alex, when you're onboard ship, you have to earn your supper.
It's very nice.
It's more like a starter. Look at the size of it.
Well, thankfully, no-one else seems to be complaining.
I found my first assignment really good,
just learning the different dynamic of the boat.
It's so different to working in a kitchen, in the confined space.
Everybody's talking, but at the same time there's also, like,
a sense of urgency to, like, get it done.
Cleaning up for me was a whole new experience.
I'm a very lazy boy
and it's probably not the best for being a chef.
I've never considered working for the Navy, but now I think I might.
Louis, I think you did a fantastic effort today.
You responded well to orders and you did fantastic on the meat.
Jess, I think you worked well in a heated environment.
I think you'd do well as a future chef.
Not all chefs get to slave away over a hot stove
in the kitchen of a posh restaurant.
People NEED to eat, whatever it is they're doing,
and there are loads more jobs out there, cooking for all sorts
of different people in all sorts of different places.
How do you fancy working in a school, a college or even a prison?
Things have changed since the Dark Ages when I was at school,
and now there are tonnes of tasty and healthy dishes to be made.
Why stay indoors when you can serve food on the move, like on a train?
Incredible dishes can come out of the back of trucks
and you can choose your backgrounds, like festivals,
funfairs or any kind of event.
If you don't like dealing with diners or if you can't handle
the heat of the kitchen, how about making your own product?
Conserves, jams, cheeses, hams, pickles, cakes and ready meals -
you can pretty much sell anything...
if it tastes good.
If cooking isn't your thing, but you still want to work with food,
there are other job roles to consider.
Take the food critic, which doesn't involve any cooking at all,
just lots of eating.
Having earned their stripes in the Navy, we're now turning up the gas.
The rookies travel to London for their next assignment.
OK, have you any idea what your next assignment is going to be?
-No. Something to do with cooking.
You're actually going to be working in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
-Wow, that is amazing.
-Come on, then, let's get on with it!
Highly regarded, Michelin stars are what restaurants earn
if they consistently serve top-quality posh nosh.
Alex and the rookies are at a Michelin-starred fish restaurant.
People come from all over to sample its fishy delights.
Everything from yellowfin tuna tartare
to halibut with cracked wheat, brown butter,
winkles with parsley and garlic sauce.
At the helm is super-chef Tony Fleming.
He used to work under the formidable Marco Pierre White
so he knows a thing or two about discipline.
He's now worked his way up to the top of his game
and gained his first Michelin star in 2013.
Let's hope our rookies meet his high standards.
OK, guys, we've got lots to do today.
Always starts with the fish delivery,
which comes up from Cornwall.
We have to unpack it, wash it, dry off the fish, then we have to start
prepping it, filleting it, portion it, ready for lunch service, OK?
Nothing but the finest ingredients in this restaurant -
octopus, prawns and crab to name just a few.
All the big meat in here, smaller meat here,
brown meat's in the head.
I started off literally washing the fish
and watching other people prep it and watching professional guys
that have been doing it for a long time,
picking up tips from them, and then they'd let me do a little bit,
bit by bit by bit, and the best way to learn is to do something.
You can read books, you can watch TV, anything, but the best way to
learn how to cook or prep, do it yourself and get your hands dirty.
It's quite a disciplined place. It's a bit like the Army.
There needs to be strict discipline. Everyone needs to know their jobs
and everyone's got to do their jobs every day.
Jess, I'll introduce you to Niamh,
our chef de partie on the larder section where we do all
the cold starters. We're fully booked for lunch
and the section needs to be ready for 12 o'clock for service.
-We have the salads, we have clementine segments.
The bottom of it.
-Then just peel off the skin and then put them into there.
-Why do you peel off the skin?
-It just makes it nicer to eat.
-Right, Louis, this is Anna. Anna, this is Louis.
She's a commis chef, she's actually still at college, studying,
so she's quite junior, but she still runs the section
and she's going to make some lobster dumplings.
All right, so in this mix, we've got lobster, chives, chilli, ginger.
We're about to chop some prawns up to put in it as well.
Chop them in half and then in half again.
-And you just do that for those ones.
So how long does it take you to start prepping food?
In the morning, we start about 7:30 and service starts at 12,
-so from 7:30 till 12, we're prepping all morning.
I started here on the larder as a commis chef
and then I've worked my way up to chef de partie here.
During prep, chefs prepare the components for dishes
on the menu, which will be cooked to order when the customers arrive.
-Why do you enjoy cooking so much?
-I don't really know.
It's something different most days.
I kind of get a thrill out of it.
-Do you want to give that a mix?
And then what we're going to do with this, is we're going to blitz
the rest of the prawns...
George O'Leary was Observer Young Chef Of The Year 2015.
He now works for food hero Tom Kerridge.
My three top tips for being a chef, is being patient,
being hard-working and enjoying what you do.
My hero is Tom Kerridge, the reason he is my hero is
because he taught me everything I wanted to know, anything
I have ever got a question or query with, I speak to him
and he will take the time to show me,
take the time to get the things in to teach me,
and the best thing is I have got to work with him for five years.
He has taken me under as a 17-year-old apprentice
and I have worked my way up to now running the meat, fish and sauce.
It is nearly midday, and the guests are arriving.
The temperature in the kitchen is rising.
You are going to do the tuna.
Together with Neve here, we have customers coming in right now,
so Neve will show you how, you do one together,
and when the orders come through, do that with Neve,
-all the way through service, yeah?
I will leave you with that now, yeah? OK, thanks.
This is the tuna, we dice it fresh every morning,
take some diced chilli, apple, chives,
spring onion, pickled ginger, and normal ginger.
All right, next to the trees, it is straight down.
You want to get smaller as you go. You need nine dots.
Flatten it down, so when we take the ring off, it all stays together.
-Check on, one eel, one tuna tartare and two halibut.
-Is there another tuna?
Put it with the back of the spoon.
Make sure it is in the middle of the plate, yeah?
Two cod, monkfish, halibut.
Nice Michelin-star plating, how does it feel?
-Right, you do the next one, I will do this one, yeah?
-Cucumber, shallot, capers, keep it inside the green line, yeah?
That's that halibut that came in earlier? Then put it in the middle.
-Service, table eight.
-First two main courses done, yeah?
-That was good.
Let's go. Right, next up, do exactly the same again.
It is one o'clock, it is the height of lunchtime,
it is really frantic, it is really busy and hot and sweaty,
and Louis and Jess are literally getting stuck in,
they are preparing food, plating up, sending it out,
and it is not like they are part of a TV show,
they are actually working in this kitchen like proper chefs.
Louis, what impressed me most about you was your enthusiasm, you were
brimming with enthusiasm, you look like you loved being in the kitchen.
You were looking at everything, you were asking questions,
and you did not seem shy about getting stuck in at all.
Jess, I thought you did very well today.
At first, I thought you were nervous, so I was not sure about how
you were going to get on, but I was pleasantly surprised.
You copied what Neve showed you straight away,
and replicated it first time.
So, I was very impressed. It was a very good start.
Louis, you did really well today, really enthusiastic and I think
if you carry on with the drive you have got, you will get very far.
Jess, you did really well today,
you approached the dishes with great enthusiasm
and executed them brilliantly during service, so, well done.
Jess and Louis' first taste of service is over.
Now, Tony wants them to create their own dish.
A piece of salmon, or do you want to serve it broken up in a sauce?
Like a tortellini or something?
-What do you think?
-Yeah, that would be good.
-Have you done one before?
Yeah? Are you sure? It is feeling a bit dry to me. My mouth is dry.
I think with a fishy stock.
Do we want to do it like a broth, so it is...
Sauce? Exactly, do you want a broth? Not like a creamy sauce, no?
-No. What is the one that is clear?
Something like that.
What I saw today that might go well with it is crispy skin.
-It tasted really good.
Maybe, like, what's... Samphire.
-..herbs or Salad?
-Samphire, yeah, exactly.
What else is inside the tortellini?
-Those little baby brown shrimp sort of things.
-Yes, brown shrimps, OK.
-Lemon, I think, goes really well.
-What about a herb?
-Parsley is, like...
-Parsley, that is the one I was thinking of.
Salmon and shrimp tortellini,
with crackling, fish consomme,
-samphire, almonds, and a bit of lemon, yeah?
OK, guys, that is a great idea. Let's go shopping.
So, here we are in one of London's biggest and oldest markets,
look at some produce and maybe stuff you have not seen before.
It'll maybe inspire you to pick something up
and we could maybe put it on the dish.
You have a lovely selection of mushrooms.
Do you recognise any of these? Do you see anything familiar?
They all look familiar, but I couldn't name them.
You have chanterelles, you have pied blue, you've got girolles,
these are from Scotland. When you are creating a dish,
it is important to think about seasonality,
and the time of the year.
You don't want to be eating strawberries in December,
you don't want to fly asparagus in from the other side of the world.
A good example this time of year is pumpkins and squashes,
nice and autumnal, I was thinking this could be quite good,
-I don't know what you guys thought.
Butternut squash? It is quite sweet.
And it could be quite rich and go well with the consomme.
-A puree, so...
-I would go for the butternut squash.
Yeah, and make a nice creamy puree.
Grab a couple of butternut squash, then.
See anything here that you recognise?
Some prawns we saw yesterday, here we have some lovely sea bass.
Check the gills of the fish as well, make sure it is fresh as well.
-Slimy is good. Slimy is good. And it shouldn't smell fishy.
We need to get some salmon as well, for the tortellinis.
Let's see if we can find some salmon.
Can we get some salmon fillet, please?
-I would like 400g, please. Just off the fillet.
This is from lovely Shetland Islands, salmon.
-We were going to cut chunks, weren't we?
-Big pieces of that.
-We'll do, like, scallops.
-Scallops... You get the fish.
-Get your wallet out, you.
-That was 8.40, mate.
Right, guys, we have our ingredients.
Peel that onion for us, Alex. Shall we take the skin off, yeah?
And then cut that into cubes.
-About that sort of size?
I just chopped some celery up and peeled an onion.
Like a chef.
This is the nice side of being a chef, making recipes,
doing nice dishes, being creative, but to do it as a profession...
Stressful environment sometimes, can be quite pressured.
You are working a lot of the time
when your friends are off in the evenings or off at the weekend,
the chances are you will be working if you're a chef,
because that's when everyone likes to go out and eat.
-Look at this, here, look at this!
-That is terrible!
Look at these two guys, look how they work, with nice little bowls,
you wouldn't last a minute in my kitchen!
I was just about to do that!
It is a way of life, being a chef, it is not just a job,
it is a decision, it is a lifestyle.
Right, this is going to be the base for the consomme,
-so chuck in the bay leaves. Do you know what these are?
Star anise, with coriander seeds.
Really strong flavour, really strong yellow colour, as well.
Put a little bit of this mixture in.
Whisk it in.
So, all that, put it on the stove.
So, all of that has to cook together
and you just gently simmer and, as you do that,
it will get clearer and clearer. What we're going to do now, then,
-we'll make the filling for the tortellini, shall we?
Right-hand side, top shelf.
Ladling off the nice, clear, amber liquid.
Michelin-star cooking is very different than
cooking for big volumes of people,
-like you did in the Navy, where you were cooking for 200 or 300.
We're cooking for, like -
the biggest table would be, like, an eight or a ten.
So we'd only do about, sort of, 25, 30 covers an hour,
but we have, you know, 10, 12 chefs...
Yeah, I didn't realise before we came in here that teamwork is
-such a big part of a restaurant.
-I thought you were all, sort of, given your own roles...
..and you got on with it, but it's so much teamwork.
You'll see that a lot in good kitchens.
That's the mark of any good team.
When you get Manchester United, they all play together.
Lots of good people are all doing it together,
-all going towards... in the same direction.
Any good kitchen, any good team, have to work together.
Then you get all the credit.
-I get all the credit for it cos I'm the boss.
So, work hard, then one day you'd better do the same.
OK, looking good. We've got enough there to
do a couple of portions, so it's time to cook this up and serve it
and then we'll get the other guys to taste it
-and we'll get the professional opinion on it, yeah?
All right, so, now, we need to bring everything together.
-Remember, this is your dish, not mine, yeah?
So if you want to say something
or you've got any ideas, just shut me up.
-Look how clear that is now.
-Yeah, that's lovely.
There we go. If you start putting it on the plate.
That's it, spread it out a little bit. You have to work together.
Remember what we said about teamwork, yeah?
Both do it at the same time, otherwise it's going to go cold.
-That's it. Yeah, and then a few almonds, I think.
-Oh, that looks really good.
-When we were round that table
having that little brainstorming session,
-is that what you were picturing?
-Yeah. That looks really good.
Yeah, I think that's quite a good conclusion.
'Judgment time is approaching.
'Niamh, Anna and sous-chef Tom
'are going to give Jess and Louis's masterpiece the once-over.'
Yeah, that's nice. It's very simple.
There's not too many strong flavours.
For a Michelin-star restaurant, it had to be a little bit more
refined and a little bit more flavour into the dish.
You had that really nice consomme, and then the puree,
and then it mixes together, so maybe that wasn't the best idea.
It needs something else with a bit more punch.
This is one of those dishes
we'd have to do a couple of times more, but good start.
-It's not just about a beautiful plate of food.
It's about, as a business,
can we actually make this dish cost-effective?
-Is it going to make us money? Are people going to eat here?
Looking at that, I'd say you've ticked all the boxes on those,
-definitely, but we need to tweak it a little bit.
I think my final assignment went really well.
It was really, really fun and really exciting
and it's nice seeing something you've worked really hard on
being on the pass and being tasted.
My final assignment has been really, really fun.
I've really enjoyed the whole experience
and just meeting a Michelin-star chef has been a dream come true.
Louis, you were very keen, very enthusiastic from the outset -
designing the dish, loved the market,
loved seeing all the produce.
As you were, sort of, getting involved,
you saw that your skill level wasn't quite there yet.
You knew you had a lot to learn
but I think, with your enthusiasm, the skills will come in time.
Jess, you were really loving every part of the process,
I think, with the menu design and in the market as well,
and you were asking lots of questions,
which I really like to see with a chef.
You were good with your hands and made really good tortellini.
I think you need to have a bit more confidence
in yourself and you can go very far.
'Our rookies have gone from one culinary extreme to the other -
'cooking grub for hungry sailors and creating gourmet fare
'for discerning diners in a Michelin-starred restaurant -
'but do they really stand a chance in this industry?'
From what I've seen today, I'd say you'd be fantastic candidates
to join the Royal Navy in the future and we hope to have you.
Louis, overall, I'm really impressed with your enthusiasm,
and your knowledge at such a young age is,
like, really impressive as well,
but the reality of being a chef is really tough.
It's going to be long hours, lack of sleep,
going to bed late and getting up early
and I think that's something you need to come to terms with
and, if you can, then you've definitely got potential.
Jess - lovely personality, really engaged, so keen,
asking lots of questions, and really hungry for it, which is good,
but what you need to realise is that you do need to
start at the bottom, and if that involves picking spinach,
peeling potatoes and washing pots, then that's what you've got to do.
There's no fast track to being at the top of being a chef.
You've got to work your way up the hard way.
OK, Louis and Jess, you've both had a really good go
at the cooking industry, and you've found out
some of the positives and some of the negatives,
-so do you still both want to be chefs?
I just want... It's just made me want to pursue it more.
I tell you what, I'm not half peckish.
-Shall we go and get some fish and chips?
-Go on, then.
Come on, then.
Ever fancied being a chef? Well come join Alex Riley and young rookies Louis and Jess as they enter the high-pressure world of professional cooking. Alex throws our young rookies in at the deep end aboard navy frigate HMS Kent to cook for a very hungry crew. Then they hone their skills in a Michelin-starred restaurant in London cooking high-end nosh for discerning diners, before finally inventing and making their very own dish under guidance from top chef Tony Fleming.