Alan White | The Grand Brighton
We meet Alan White, long standing Executive Chef at The Grand Hotel Brighton.
In this interview he shares his passion for cooking, his words of advice for future chefs and hairdressing as an alternative career.
From a culinary perspective, there are always opportunities to be creative with what we serve to our guests, plus the fast-paced atmosphere of the kitchen definitely keeps me on my toes!
How did you train to become a chef?
I always knew that I wanted to be in the kitchen creating the food, rather than serving it. So when I went to catering college I chose a course focused on developing professional culinary skills and did an additional patisserie course as well.
The best piece of advice for a graduate or trainee chef?
Look out for people who inspire you, and watch and listen to everything they say. I’d also advise any trainee chef to put your full passion into the plate you’re creating and don’t be afraid to experiment.
When you get the chance to express yourself, grab it and take your chances.
Why choose The Grand Brighton as the location for GB1?
The prime seafront location makes restaurant dining in The Grand a real sensory experience, and it’s a real pleasure to know that our guests can look out and watch the seaboats go by whilst they enjoy a plate of fresh seafood which has come from the two or three deliveries we get a day from local suppliers. It’s really all about creating something delicious which Brighton’s community can identify with.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Everyone always said it was going to be hard – that to be a real chef you truly have to put the hours in and sometimes miss out on special occasions with loved ones. What I wish the chefs I learned from had recognised themselves is the risk of burnout in this career. Being mindful of mental health and creating an environment which encourages young chefs to bring their best selves to the kitchen, without overdoing it, is definitely something which I’ve become more conscious of over my career.
If there was something in the industry you could change then what would it be?
The advice I was always given as a young chef in the kitchen was to be the first one in and the last one out. And, while this is great advice for someone junior to expand their knowledge, if you’re overworked, you’ll never do the dishes you create the justice they deserve. So I’d like to see kitchens introducing more flexible ways of working.
For chefs who have already started out on their career ladder, what’s your advice on progressing their position?
I’d tell them to work through the steps in the kitchen ladder in order, from commis chef right through to the head positions rather than skipping milestones for a quick salary increase. Each role change will set you up with a depth of experience which will be really valuable for the future. The experience will always pay, and salary increases will come in time.
Which colleague or mentor has been your biggest influence?
When I worked in Manchester, my Executive Chef at the time, Bernard, was the guy to look up to.
He was the guy who had his eye on everything from fine dining to room service, he really cared about the whole food experience of the five-star hotel we worked in. When he put me in charge of a French restaurant in Paris – he made sure I did things that I might never have done. He showed me what success could look like and gave me the routes to get there myself.
Have you lost sleep because of work?
All the time – I lose sleep from thinking about whether we have the right level of staffing at the hotel and questioning myself over new dishes we’re creating. But overthinking originates from a passion for the work I do and, because cooking is a continual process of improvement, there’s always something to think about.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Spending time with my friends, family and particularly my son. We have a season ticket down at Southampton so a weekend outing to watch the football never goes amiss. I also walk my boxer dog, Ray, twice a day along the seafront.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
The type of restaurants I like going to are all about relaxed, casual dining. Even better is when there’s a menu which has small or sharing plates that can be enjoyed with the people you care about.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in hospitality?
Despite having no hair of myself, I’ve always had a secret ambition to be a hairdresser! Saying that, if I had my time again I definitely wouldn’t change my choice to work in a kitchen. In every reality, I’d still be a chef!