A day in the life: Whitbread chef

Career rewards aren’t just about salaries and benefits, as Katherine Marshall discovered when she joined Whitbread’s kitchen team at her local Beefeater

After having kids and taking a career break, Katherine decided she wanted to work in hospitality. To ease her way in, she opted for some hospitality courses – and this is where the Whitbread recruitment team found her. Two years later, Katherine has worked her way up to Grill Chef, and is taking ‘Progressing Into First Management’ training so she can step up to Head Chef.

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So what's your working day like as a Whitbread chef?

At the moment, I’m mainly working weekdays. So, with three kids to get up, washed and dressed for school, my days always start early. After dropping them off, it’s only a ten-minute walk to the Beefeater which is really handy – especially when I need to dash back for home time.

When I get in, my job is to prep the kitchen for the day ahead and I tend to have a breakfast chef to help. I prepare all the meat, chop all the salad fresh every day, and portion everything up. I’ll be doing prep until lunch service starts. I really like getting everything organised for the rest of my team because I know it can have a real knock on effect if it’s not all ready.

When does rush hour hit?

That would definitely be during lunch service. It’ll usually be myself and someone else in the kitchen at this time – and I tend to do the grill and plate up. I actually really like grilling. When I first started, I wasn’t very confident with cooking steaks. But now I’ve got it, I get real satisfaction from making sure each steak is perfectly cooked – and I love it when a guest says they enjoyed it.

When things start getting a bit quieter – which is mid-afternoon at this restaurant – we’ll be cleaning up, wiping down surfaces and topping up for the next service. It can look a bit like bomb’s hit the place if it’s busy, so it’s quite satisfying when you’ve made it look good again.

What happens at the end of the day?

If I’m done for the day, I’ll head off to collect the kids and get them home for their tea and bedtime. The kids always want me to cook a fancy dinner for them, and I have to explain that it's my night off. Luckily they're just as happy with some pasta or fish fingers (aren't we all?).

If I’m working the evening shift, the kids usually stay with their grandparents, and I’ll grab some food here on my break with my employee discount. I also get a nice family discount to use outside work, which is very useful for family meals out.

What are the challenges of being a chef?

As it’s such a busy job, it can be hard. As a working mum, there are sometimes things my kids have coming up at school and I can’t come along every time. If I have enough notice I can always ask my boss for time off though – which I’ve just done for my son’s long-distance sports day. In terms of the job, I was a bit shy at first, but I soon realised you can only learn from your mistakes. My manager has been really supportive by encouraging me to take any courses I need.

What do you love about working at Whitbread?

Working at Whitbread makes me feel respected and confident in my abilities. I love the reward you get from helping the guests and the team, and then getting to go home and talk to the kids about it. It makes me feel proud each time I come in.

I also love the opportunities available. Whitbread doesn’t insist you stop in the kitchen – if you want to work out front you can do that as well. My management training course could lead to me becoming Head Chef or leading the team out front, so whatever your goal is, it's possible to achieve it.

Find out more about Whitbread and see vacancies on Mumsnet Jobs, or visit their website.