Thursday, 18 April 2013

Is Luke Thomas a case of too much too young?

It appears that Luke Thomas created a social media storm following the broadcast of the BBC 3 documentary, Britain’s Youngest Head Chef last night. However, love him or hate him, there’s no denying that the young chef has been taken on a ride. 

Mark Fuller might well say that Luke spoke like a 30 year old but knowledge of food and running a kitchen is not something that you’re born with.  As in any profession, I truly believe that to become a master of your trade a chef needs ten years’ experience working in a commercial kitchen.  

To me, Luke’s story is a by-product of our celebrity-obsessed society and despite his apparent maturity, his hunger for fame and success has been exploited by someone pulling the strings for his own gain. 

Luke’s desire for fame and ambition to win a Michelin star display some of the worst traits of our trade.  A chef sets up a restaurant because firstly it’s his or her profession and secondly because he/ she needs to make money.  At Simpsons, we’re very lucky to have Michelin recognition but it’s even more important to be recognised by our thousands of customers. Of course, we appreciate the positive power of media coverage but what use is that when the restaurant closes down?

Luke won the Futurechef competition, which is a fantastic award for young people. However, I have a chef in my kitchen who won a the best commis prize in the world’s most prestigious competition and he’s still working under half a dozen others. At 23, Kristian has ambition but he also has a team around him, showing him new skills, challenging him and mentoring him so that in a few year’s time he will be ready to head up his own kitchen. 

As a long standing governor of University College Birmingham, I’ve seen many potential young culinary stars come and go but without exception, those who have made it to the top have done their time. It’s not easy being a chef and to be considered a true talent you need to earn the respect of your peers and colleagues - which does not happen overnight.  I’m sure that Luke has bags of talent but at the age of 19 he just doesn’t have the credibility. 

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