Brits abroad: Daniel Thompson

20 January 2017 by
Brits abroad: Daniel Thompson

The executive sous chef at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg talks to Katherine Price about a chef's life in Germany and why everyone should work abroad

Describe the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten

It's a five-star hotel, very much F&B-based: we have the two-Michelin-starred Haerlin restaurant, we've got Nikkei Nine, which is Japanese/South American influenced, and the Grill restaurant serves classic German food.
We have banqueting, afternoon teas, a small restaurant in the summer on the waterside, and a small restaurant upstairs on the terrace. We have 156 rooms and about 70 chefs in the hotel.

What inspired you to move abroad?

I thought it would be a good challenge to go and learn a different culture and explore my options. It was quite strange because I'd never been to Germany or lived abroad before. Back then, there weren't many foreign people in the kitchens, especially from non-German-speaking countries, so it was quite difficult at first. Now it's more international.

What is the industry like in Germany? Is it easy for British hospitality workers to move there?

If you're looking to move to Germany I would try and sort something out with your employer with somewhere to live, because it is quite hard unless you want to pay through the nose to agencies to get a flat in Hamburg.

What is your favourite thing about Hamburg?

It's not as big as London and it's quite a tight-knit community. Everyone knows head chefs from other hotels, other restaurants, and we all help each other. Yeah, we've got rivalry, but it's friendly rivalry. We do kitchen parties twice a year. All the other head chefs from other restaurants come and we have a party in the hotel.

Is there anything you'd change?

Sundays are quiet: there are no shops open, you're not allowed to cut the grass, you're not allowed to do anything. They are old rules, but people stick by them. If you're caught breaking them, people complain and call the police.

Would you ever come back to the UK?

Yes, but I'm going to see how it goes, because I've got a family now and I think the industry in Germany is more family-friendly than in London. When our baby was born last year, I was allowed to take two months off. And it's not frowned upon - you're encouraged. It's all very supportive, and the government wants you to bring the kids to kindergarten and for you to go back to work. You're not working and having to pay out most of your salary in childcare.

How do you think working overseas has enhanced your career?

Seeing other cultures has broadened my horizons. I have experienced different produce, I can see what people eat, what people eat for breakfast, what kind of food they have in supermarkets. If you get the chance to work abroad, take the bull by both horns and go. It makes you more grown up, more mature. If you get the chance to go abroad, go abroad.

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