When Gordon Ramsay watches you work
He has a well-earned reputation for colourful tantrums in the kitchen, but CPIT graduate Alex Charlton says TV personality Gordon Ramsay is actually really nice.
Charlton is demi-chef de partie at maze, a London-based Michelin star restaurant owned by Ramsay where she heads up the pastry section and a team of three other chefs. It comes with the territory that people ask what her famous boss is really like?
“He's really nice!” Charlton says. “What I like about him is he takes the time to go around all the staff front and back of house, shakes their hand and asks how they are doing, maybe a bit of banter as well, not just with the senior chefs.”
However, Ramsay in the kitchen can also be a little daunting Charlton admits. “It is pretty nerve wracking though especially if he comes in during service and he watches you plating up.”
It’s a long way from Black Bettys on Christchurch’s Madras Street to one of London’s most recognised dining establishments and Charlton recognises the help she had along the way.
“The tutors at CPIT are great. So willing to pass on their knowledge and experience of the industry. A lot of the techniques I learnt I am using for sure, especially from pastry!
“I would say that I properly started my career working at Fiddlesticks restaurant and bar in Christchurch. I was given a lot of support and learning opportunities by the chefs there and I started producing some really top notch food. So I owe them a huge thanks as I probably wouldn't be in London working for Gordon Ramsay if it wasn't for them! I was working there for a year during my second year of study and before that I was at Black Betty's across the road from CPIT.”
Fiddlesticks Manager Anthony Page said Alex was a stand-out employee who was missed when she left Christchurch. “Alex started with us from the opening of Fiddlesticks. She had come from a busy cafe but wanted to push herself further.
“Ramsay in the kitchen can also be a little daunting Charlton admits…”
“Alex picked up menus very quickly and was always eager to put her own spin on dishes. She had a natural inclination towards pastry and her chocolate writing was the preferred choice by all.
“She was missed in the kitchen after her move to the UK and the skills we taught her and principles we instilled in her, although at the time she probably couldn't see, these are now benefiting her in the serious kitchens at maze and beyond.”
Looking for a job in London, Charlton came across a position at maze. She makes it sound simple. She applied, was invited in for a trial and they offered her the job a few days later.
“The thing I enjoy most about the job is the rush you get when it's busy and you are all working together as a team to send out some amazing Michelin star food and the guests go away feeling happy and want more!” she said.
“Having maze on my CV will look amazing and it should open a few doors for me especially when I go back to New Zealand. maze is such a well-known restaurant and the Gordon Ramsay name more so, so to have that on my CV, and for a considerable amount of time like six months to one year, it shows that I can handle pressure and stress in a busy environment.”
This bright and promising career started with a simple love of cooking and a Diploma in Professional Cookery at CPIT. “My Grandma and Mum are great cooks and actually my entire family including extended are pretty handy in the kitchen. Being a chef wasn't my first idea after high school. I went to university for a couple years but now that I'm doing it I can't see myself doing anything else. I love it!”