When it comes to food I’ve been very lucky; I was brought up in the pub trade, where my parents focused on good honest pub food. Every night I was spoilt for choice from a menu of what to eat, from home made pies to fresh cod and chips. I was also exposed to the hard work and long hours of preparation it takes to get each plate food on the table.
At 16 my younger brother Adam, followed in our fathers footsteps, picked up the chefs knife and headed off to Westminster College in London to become a chef.
Skipping forward 15 years he is now Head Chef at Bluebells restaurant in Sunningdale. He spent his first few years learning his craft at Wentworth Golf Course. The next chapter in his gastronomic learning was under the guidance of the world famous Michel Roux and his son Alain at the 3 Michelin Star, Waterside Inn, Bray.
I’ve been lucky enough to eat at every major restaurant Adam has worked at as well as many other fine dining establishments. I’ve had kitchen tours and met the chefs that prepare meticulously crafted, mouthwatering dishes. However I’ve never witnessed them doing it, until now. Adam was kind enough to let me spend the day in his kitchen photographing him and his team hard at work.
I arrive late, thanks to the usual heavy traffic on the M25, it’s only 9:30am, but the chefs have been in for an hour, they won’t finish until gone midnight! There are 5 chefs and a kitchen porter on duty, each already fully focused on the task in hand. They are preparing sauces, kneading bread dough, filleting fish and preparing vegetables. A quick hello and they carry on, time is not wasted chatting, there is no radio on to distract them, they are all focused on getting ready for the lunch service.
Nothing is wasted; the skin of the chicken and fish are used to create delicate and crunchy garnishes. Vegetables and fruits are prepared in such a way that as little as possible goes in the bin. Bones from the butcher are used to create stocks. If every household cooked like a professional kitchen we would all save money and reduce food waste massively.
I move around the kitchen with great care; it’s a dangerous place, extremely hot surfaces, pans full of boiling liquid, knives sharp enough to shave with and everyone moving around carrying these items at speed. I try and capture each of the chefs at that perfect moment that illustrates all the action as it is happening around me, it’s much harder than I thought possible.
During service Adam stands at the pass as each chef brings their piece of the puzzle on demand and perfectly cooked. Each dish on an order comes together in a flurry of motion and as each chef moves away the different plates of food sit beautifully ready to be whisked away by the waitress. Adam shouts “service” and the waitress arrives, the food heads out of the door as the next order is already beginning to take shape.
It’s amazing seeing this highly complex process unfold. Every plate of food is a combination of elements created individually and then brought together for the diner to enjoy.
I stayed throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, the pressure never lets up, there is always more prep or another order to plate up. I feel extremely privileged and very proud to have experienced my brothers talent first hand. He has worked tirelessly at Bluebells for 7 years now. The restaurant is in the Michelin guide and has two AA Rosettes and is regularly frequented by a variety of celebs!
On this visit I focused all my attention on the kitchen and this is only half the story, maybe on another day I will document the front of house and the diners.
It was a serious learning curve; where to stand, what angles to shoot from, how to light. The kitchen is a tight environment, with lots of shiny surfaces and lots of light sources; natural light coming in from the window, fluorescent from the strip lights and the heat lamps emitting an intense orange glow. I decided to use flash and control the situation as much as possible. I still had to do some correction in post.
Here are a few more of the images from my time in the kitchen. I’m now looking forward to my next visit, whether it’s to sit out front and eat or in the kitchen with my camera.
Hollandaise Sauce being prepared
Fresh bread straight from the oven
Kitchens are hot and steamy places to work
Delicate and precise presentation is key
Macaroon filling being piped
Adam plating up Lamb kofta kebabs
Making chocolate tubes for the Warm baked chocolate mousse
Adam tasting his chefs work
Adam cooking scallops
Adam Turley, Head Chef, Bluebells
You can see more images from my day in the kitchen on my flickr photostream.