Michael Radtke, executive chef, Novotel London Tower Bridge

17 August 2006
Michael Radtke, executive chef, Novotel London Tower Bridge

Darwin-born Michael Radtke, 29, is the executive chef at Novotel London Tower Bridge. He has 10 chefs in his brigade and four kitchen porters, and it's fair to say that his approach to man-management and motivation is a little different to the norm.

"I was taught to appreciate exactly where produce comes from and how to prepare the whole animal for cooking," he says. "Preportioned food is great but a lot of young chefs don't have any experience of anything else - they lack the broad skills that make a great chef."

To this end, Radtke got a
9ft-long mako shark delivered whole to the kitchen in May, and was more recently pictured in Caterer with a monstrous 250lb halibut.

It's fair to say his exploits have caused quite a stir.

"A lot of the guys in the team had never seen fish this big before, and were intimidated initially," he says. "But it's been a huge morale booster. Most of them are so excited now that they call in whenever we have a delivery, regardless of whether they're working that day."

His employer is impressed as well, since the halibut, which cost £1,000, made 350 portions. If it had been bought separately as portions, the cost would have doubled.

It's clear that Radtke sees his executive role as a bit of a wheeler-dealer, and he is constantly manoeuvring with local suppliers to get the best produce at the best price.

Inevitably, there's plenty of paperwork to be done in a kitchen operation with a turnover in excess of £4m. "It's also important to know what's going on in the rest of the hotel," he says. "You can't hide away in your kitchen if you want to do your role well."

Radtke first worked in the UK at the Waggon and Horses hotel in Manchester in 1996, as head chef, but returned to Australia for a number of years before taking a six-month stint in Devon in June 2003, which acted as the foot in the door he needed to land a job in London.

"If you're career-minded, you need to keep assessing where you've got to and where you want to get to," he says. "It doesn't do any chef any good to stay in a single place or role for a long period of time."

One thing Radtke tells all his young chefs is that official qualifications count if you're going to progress. He counsels: "You'll only get so far without them."


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