Case study

Head chef — Joo Won

Joo started learning his trade at a bakery and pastry institute in South Korea. He now works as a head chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London

What did you study and where?

I studied a BA in Hotel and Tourism Management at the Schiller International Institute in London, and then later completed Le Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu, where I learned classical French cooking techniques.

I am now head chef at Galvin at Windows, a Michelin starred-restaurant and bar in Mayfair.

How did you get your job?

I studied industrial engineering at college in South Korea but it was not the right career for me.

I then took a course in baking and pastry making. I was good at it and felt I could progress within the industry. My teacher recommended that I leave South Korea to learn about French gastronomy and western cuisine.

As part of my degree, I went to a four-star hotel resort in Switzerland for a year and worked in the different departments of the kitchen.

After graduation I moved to Glasgow to work at my friend's restaurant, and then took a job as a commis chef at a four-star hotel in the city. The executive chef encouraged me to go to London to learn more about French cuisine. I studied for the Le Grand Diplôme, but because it was an expensive qualification I got a part-time job at Orrery - a French restaurant in Marylebone.

I got to know Chris Galvin while working there and when he opened Galvin at Windows, he asked me to go with him.

What is a typical day like as a head chef?

In the morning, I do the basic checks with our senior team, which involve ordering, ensuring the quality of products, kitchen status (equipment and hygiene) and giving the chefs their work for the day.

I then do the daily business plans for the lunch and dinner menus and the necessary mise en place.

The sous chefs or I taste all the dishes before they go out - this happens throughout the day until we leave the kitchen at night.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy watching the team and the kitchen progress and seeing individuals grow.

What are the challenges?

Finding motivated people who care about mastering simple basic skills, in order to become true craftsmen.

With TV and celebrity chefs young people know the perks of the profession, but not what is required to get there.

The hours can be difficult and it helps to be physically fit. What is required is a mental focus and the will to achieve your goals.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Focus on the basics and be respectful to the ingredients, kitchen standards, guests, colleagues and yourself.
  • Do not look for instant return - it takes years to become a skilled chef.
  • Stay in a kitchen where you feel challenged. When you feel that it is easy, that is when you stop progressing.

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