Steve Pooley – Jamie Oliver’s right-hand man in the kitchen for more than 15 years – says that menus which are too large to implement and chefs that don’t subscribe to teamwork are among his pet hates in the kitchen.
Mr Pooley was synonymous with the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group as it expanded rapidly in the early and middle part of the decade, serving as head of food development and special projects for nine years followed by four years as chef director of special estate and projects.
When he left the business last year to pursue a new path as a freelance chef consultant, Mr Oliver paid tribute to their partnership on social media, calling him a “powerhouse” and his “main main in the kitchen”.
Giving his views on the things that irritate him in the kitchen, Mr Pooley said: “I’m a cranky old git, so operationally it annoys me when people try to fit a massive menu into a kitchen not fit for purpose. It’s too demanding. A bigger menu doesn’t mean more sales.
“In terms of a kitchen, those who stand by and be obnoxious are simply annoying. The stronger and more experienced people in it should motivate the younger guys and gals. We should all be sharing and using team work. Oh, and towels on shoulders is a real pet peeve too!”
With regard to the gender balance in the industry, Mr Pooley said it would be great to see females given more opportunities in kitchen.
“I’ve worked with many women and noted that skillsets mean they’re much better organised than men, they lead better, are more compassionate… but they take lots of shit and I honestly don’t know why they’re not more predominant in kitchen.
“A blend of men and women in the kitchen is a great fit. Again, I’ve worked with many teams and it’d be nicer with more of a balance of the genders. It would also be good to see the guys step up. I think that a perfect ratio of women to men would be ideal; a perfect storm of organised and respectful plus diverse cultures in higher positions.”
Mr Pooley was speaking during a conversation with Sprint Group’s sales director Ian Bryant as part of a special series featuring individuals that the distributor has worked with over the years.
An extended version of the piece will be published on FEJ later this week.