07 Jan '20

In the Kitchen with Connor Godfrey

Connor is a talented, young, hotel and restaurant chef who has achieved a great deal in his career so far. He’s recently been working closely with the Craft Guild of Chefs to organise their monthly lunch clubs and is passionate about developing talent in the culinary world through mentoring.

Tell us about your current role and career history

Straight from school, I attended the University of West London where I won the Junior Apprentice of the Year. After that, I completed a two-year apprenticeship at the Royal Garden Hotel whilst studying at Westminster Kingsway College once a week.

At the moment, I’m enjoying working as the executive sous chef at The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair. Before this role, I was working as a sous chef at the Royal Garden Hotel with Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, Steve Munkley. Previously, I was senior chef de partie at Wiltons Restaurant in London. In 2014, I worked at The Ritz where I gained a huge amount of experience working with renowned chef, John Williams.

As part of my current role I am a training manager with two apprentices under my full supervision, which is an area of the position that I absolutely love.

Describe what it’s like to work in your kitchen  

I like to maintain a friendly learning environment and don’t believe there should ever be too much stress in a kitchen. There is never a problem that can’t be fixed, and my view is people would much rather work with a friend than an enemy. I always try and take an interest in my colleagues lives and learn about their family and hobbies which I think the team really appreciate.

I’ve mentored four people through the Graduate Awards which I have really enjoyed doing and one of my proteges recently won gold at World Skills UK. For me, it’s nice to see people do well and I love following the careers of chefs I’ve worked with. In my early career, I passed the Graduate Awards and competed in the final of Young National Chef of the Year. Both of these gave me learning experiences which I can pass on to others.

Tell us more about your approach to food

My style is relaxed as I believe if you don’t want to eat the food yourself there is no point in serving it to others. At the end of the day, you are giving your guests an experience, whether they have saved for ten years to come to your restaurant or already been four times this year. It’s all about making that personal experience memorable and amazing for everyone.

Why did you choose to work as a chef?

My dad is a chef, and whilst he has never pushed me towards this role, it’s something which always just felt natural to me. When I was growing up, I enjoyed making lots of the family meals at home. I’ve always enjoyed the pressure of the kitchen environment and love working with people and mentoring young chefs.

What do you love most about this sector?

If I had to pick just one thing it would be the people. A kitchen feels like a real community with a unique set of people. The team I work with at The Westbury may not have connected in a different environment as we all have different backgrounds, interests and even nationalities. However, in the kitchen we all get on so well. There aren’t many jobs which enable you to work anywhere in the world with skills that are so transferable, regardless of the hospitality sector or location.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your kitchen?

I don’t tend to see things as a challenge as everything can be overcome and we always find a way round something. Everyone goes on about staffing being an issue in hospitality, but we always overcome it and have a great team. Challenges are designed to help us grow and learn.

What is your biggest hope for the future for chefs?

I’d love the industry to get away from the stigma that all chefs do 90 hours a week and are always out drinking or taking drugs. This simply isn’t the case, but the media spotlight can often portray the industry in a negative way which is not ideal when we are trying to entice young people to work in hospitality. I have a very good work life balance and regularly train at the gym and compete in triathlons so lead a healthy lifestyle that I easily fit around my job.

Tell us about your career highlight

I’ve had lots of personal highlights in my career but the real high moments for me have been the success stories of chefs I’ve mentored, such as Ashleigh Hellowell doing so well at World Skills UK. Being a chef is not about being selfish. Knowing people you have trained have gone on to surpass you is the greatest achievement any senior chef could have.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career as a chef?

It’s a fantastic direction to go in. People assume hospitality is just a stepping stone to something else but you can make a fantastic career in it. There is nowhere in the world that you couldn’t go and work if you wanted to. Cooking is a life skill and being a chef teaches you important lessons including sticking to deadlines, working under pressure and teamwork.

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