Cook’s Certificate Graduate Profile: Q&A with Lucien at Daphne’s

We are always excited when our six-week accredited Cook’s Certificate graduates do trials in top end restaurants and are offered jobs as part of their brigades.  Our Cook’s Certificate in Food and Wine has now been running for more than 10 years.

We recently caught up with Lucien who joined us for our six week course in spring 2024. He graduated and immediately took a job at Daphne’s, an institution in the South Kensington dining scene, which originally opened in 1964!

What made you decide to take the Cook’s Certificate – did you know you wanted to become a professional cook?

L: I knew I wanted to be a professional cook and looking on job sites, a lot of them required previous work in the industry so I thought that maybe the best way was to get a qualification under my belt, which the Cookery School did offer – a lot of cookery courses don’t [offer this] and lots aren’t for very long, so that was the main reason, and the food health and safety was also a big part of it.

Have you worked in professional kitchens previously and did this help you to decide to become a cook?

L: Yes – I worked in a pub in south west London called The Hope when I was 15/16, on an apprenticeship but the apprenticeship wasn’t very good and then I moved house… I had to go back to college but as soon as I turned 18 I left college and did the course, so I knew from back then.

Many cooks and chefs have fond memories of food from growing up, do you have certain dishes that remind you of your childhood?

L: Green mash and salmon, which is spinach mixed into a mash with salmon, a pretty weird, specific one! Ratatouille is probably a more normal one, pasta bake – a lot of classic comfort foods.

What were the biggest challenges of the course?

L: I think the planning of the buffet, that aspect of it was something that I had never really done before, it was very useful, a good skill to learn but for me personally that was probably the biggest challenge.

What were your favourite moments on the course and why?

L: The wine course! No, I liked the pastry because I’d never really done it before and that’s probably what I am least confident in so it was really nice doing that, and just meeting everyone was quite nice.

How did you apply for the job that you’ve got now?

L: Ros helped me with that, she’s in contact with someone at Caprice Holdings which is the company that owns Daphne’s. I asked about openings in any of the restaurants and they did have an opening at Daphne’s… I sent my resume, got a trial shift and I was employed!

What was it like to go straight into a professional kitchen after completing the Cook’s Certificate?

L: I think personally, I don’t think it hit me as hard because I’d worked in a pub previously, but I do think that from the cooking course, if you’d never worked in a kitchen it would be a bit of a shock, just because in a cooking course it is relaxed, apart from the assessments… There is teamwork involved in the cookery course, but I feel like when you work in a professional kitchen, it’s on a different level, everyone relies on each other a lot more and I do think pressure is very different because you’re actually serving people versus just you and other students. That’s probably the biggest surprise but I think it would affect people differently.

So, you’re now working for Daphne’s in South Kensington, a brilliant achievement in such a short space of time. What is your job role and what are your favourite things to make on the menu?

L: So I work on the larder section which is cold food, I don’t know why it’s called larder as I’m pretty sure that means cupboard, and then occasionally I help out on veg. I’ve only been there 2 months so they don’t trust me fully yet! I like making octopus carpaccio – it’s quite a nice process and it looks very pretty by the end of it. I kind of like making all of it [the menu]!  I like watching the other chefs make the pasta and work on the grill section and on veg – I’m very happy there, I feel like I am learning a lot, even just by observing.

If someone was in your position, is there any advice you would give them, things that helped you?

L: I would say, probably, be confident in yourself and don’t be scared to ask questions or don’t think that just because you haven’t cooked professionally and the people you’re working with have cooked professionally, that they will view you in some kind of hierarchical way – I think it’s very communal – the learning is communal in the kitchen, people aren’t gatekeeping how to cook, if anything they want to bring you up and they’re very happy to do that, so I think to ask questions and not be shy is probably the biggest thing.

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If you are thinking about cooking professionally in a restaurant kitchen or starting your own food business then find out more about our professional Cook’s Certificate in Food & Wine or get in touch with us for a chat!

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Cook's Certificate