Sunday, 12 July 2009

Introducing Ben, the head chef at seven am.

Ben is the head chef at seven am.

He is originally from the UK (he has the British accent to prove it) and has been calling Australia home for the past 6 years.
He is a man of many talents.
He has worked as an engineer.
He has worked as a project manager.
And a plasterer.
For the last four years, Ben has worked as a chef.

Ben believes he has found his perfect job.

When Ben first arrived in Australia, he could easily have fallen back into the comfort zone of doing what he knows, but he was keen to try something new and believes he has now found his 'thing'. Ben is doing what he loves, a role that he is passionate about and that motivates him to try new things and improve on the skills that he already has as a chef.

When Jason was looking for a head chef, Ben came along at just the right time. In fact, the timing could not have been more perfect. Ben had just returned from working in a cafe down the coast for 3 years. He had also helped with the refit of the coastal cafe a couple of years earlier and so promised to be a great asset to this project. During the seven am cafe development stages, Ben has been a full time friend and support to Jason.

In Jason's words, Ben is "perfect for the job... In his involvement and planning in the project everything has worked. He is enthusiastic, committed, mature, has a good business sense and we share a vision of what we want to achieve. We share a natural alignment of thought."

Jason has faith in Ben and his style. When they first discussed the menu in January, they found they already had very similar hopes and expectations. There are some differences of ideas of course, but this surely is another essential ingredient for variety and spice.

I recently asked Ben a few questions...

What do you like to cook?
Fresh basic ingredients with flavour are essential. And then using them together without over complicating it too much. Allowing the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves.

I like homestyle, though not too homey. A good balance of flavours and taste. Meals that are natural and not too finicky. Everything fresh and made to order.

We want to create a base menu with seasonal flavours and specials making the most of Melbourne's access to fresh and high quality food. What you can expect is good honest food.

Ben especially loves fish and seafood which is perfect for seven am’s seaside location.

What's the biggest thing you have learned so far?
I have learnt so much about the big picture, about opening a cafe from scratch and a total understanding of what is required from every side of the business. It has been an amazing experience.

So, Ben. How would you sell yourself for this role?
(This stopped him short and he looked a bit uncomfortable about selling himself, it was difficult question)
Ultimately, I will be myself... What you see is what you get.
I like what I cook. What I lack in experience, I will learn. I am adaptable and I am open to the advice of others in the process of learning new things. I work well under pressure.

What do you see as Jason's strengths for the business?
Definitely his people focus. He’s very self aware. He's been in hospitality before so he knows what's required and he also draws well from his creative and design background and from life experience.
He's just a top person really... He knows what he wants, what he has to do to get it and he isn't afraid of the hard slog to get there.

Together, I think Ben and Jason are going to make a great team.