Celebrating International Women’s Day with our Executive Chef, Gillian Moss
To recognise International Women’s Day this year, we’ve had a sit-down chat with Executive Chef, Gillian Moss; the force behind Grape and Grain’s innovative menus and distinctive delivery.
There is no substitute to hard work in the hospitality industry and in this competitive field, it takes some fair grafting to succeed. To recognise International Women’s Day this year, we’ve had a sit-down chat with Executive Chef, Gillian Moss; the force behind Grape and Grain’s innovative menus and distinctive delivery.
Gill started her career almost 20 years ago, and since leaving catering college has established herself in some incredible hotels and venues.
Working her way up through the kitchen to where she is now, her key achievements include; becoming a finalist for the ‘Gordon Ramsay Scholarship’, being shortlisted for ‘National Senior Chef of the Year’ at De Vere Hotels, working alongside French Michelin star chef Albert Roux on numerous occasions and the creating recipes / leading a project for a children’s cookery book headed up by the National Fostering Agency.
Using her knowledge, expertise and an eye for innovation Gill now leads a team to deliver delicious and impressive food at a huge range of events; private dining experiences, elaborate gala dinners, quirky conferences, product launches and weddings.
What’s most rewarding about being a chef?
Seeing the final product leaving the kitchen to a room full of guests after all the planning and preparation is definitely rewarding. To be able to say ‘I did that’ after weeks of sourcing ingredients, tasting flavours and trailing presentation. The most rewarding menus are usually the most challenging to start off with so when feedback comes through, it’s very rewarding to know that as a team we’ve succeeded and done the business proud.
What helps you keep your creative juices flowing? How do you stay inspired?
Visiting new restaurants, pop up bars and street vendors to see what others are doing as well as keeping an eye out on cool quirky ideas online that come from other countries and cuisines. The most important thing for the business is to give clients something different, something bespoke which makes you think outside the box.
Who or what was your biggest inspiration to becoming a chef?
Like most young people, I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I applied to college to learn and broaden my skills. Once I started working, my first ever boss (the Exec Chef) used to tell me stories about life in the kitchen, the places that he’d worked and how he’d set himself goals. I watched how he managed the kitchen, his passion and style of leadership. At the time, it was very rare to have a female in the kitchen, but he really inspired me and pushed me to achieve and overcome challenges. I can now see exactly why he did what he did because it’s helped me to become the chef that I am today. It’s the people of this industry that are an inspiration to each other.
Is the industry as brutal as people say it is?
Kitchen life is very different to most jobs and it’s very much like a family. You spend a lot of time there, you’re working closely together. Ten years ago, I would say it was brutal and challenging however times have changed massively. Whilst there are still pressures and long hours, you can’t speak to people in the way people used to be spoken to, there is much more awareness around harassment and bullying with procedures in place now. If you plan and organise the work that you’re set on a daily and weekly basis with a good team around you, it helps a hell of a lot.
What are the main challenges women face within the industry and why?
From my experience, I find a lot of of people judge straight away because I am a woman. Different clients and sometimes other chefs; more often than not they expect the head chef to come out as a man. I have had some instances where with some people you can tell the shock on their face and they don’t hide that very well. It’s quite hard being in the minority but if you want to succeed you have to keep pushing and show resilience to any negativity. Although now on the increase, I do think the industry lacks more leading women in senior positions of the catering industry. The media tends to focus mainly on the powerful male chefs and restaurant owners in the city but with more instances now, it’s really empowering to see successful food and drink businesses headed up by women.
What should be done to overcome these challenges?
Having more women working in the industry to make an influence. It would be great for me to talk to another local female in a similar position. I know a lot of guys in this industry and only one other lady on a personal basis who works in London because we once worked in a kitchen together and were the only two female head chefs at that time. I think we also need support (from both men and women) for the next generation of females who may want to start their career in the industry but get put off by similar issues I’ve faced. We need to show them that we’re able to tackle what lies ahead, be taken seriously with the potential to make a real success.
What make Grape and Grain Catering Co special?
It’s the variety I love most about working for Grape and Grain. One day I could be doing a gala dinner for 200, the next I’m managing street food huts for 500 then the next I’m creating a high end fine dining menu for 10. We’re not like most other caters, hotels and venues, my team and I get to create weird and wonderful menus for events really focusing on guest experience. There’s no two events that are the same, I like that we get to use our creativity and no day is ever boring.