Marc Antony, chef de partie at Pinion bistro in Prescot, Merseyside, on the value of a kitchen education, reading the culinary classics and being inspired by his boss Gary Usher.
Did you study a hospitality course at school or college?
No, I studied music in college.
Did you do an apprenticeship in hospitality?
Also, no – I just jumped right in at the deep end.
Did you do any work experience in the industry?
Between the ages of 14 and 16 I helped with basic prep and cleaning in a small café with my mother.
What was your first hospitality job?
A kitchen porter at Chester Racecourse – a humbling experience, to say the least.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
It's mainly the progression that attracted me, as with enough effort the possibilities are endless.
How did you make the transition into a job in hospitality?
I started as a kitchen porter and just kept grinding and showing I could work well in a kitchen until I was given a chance to cook.
Who was your first mentor or role model in hospitality?
My first mentor was my previous head chef, James Connolly. We locked horns a good few times, but I'll always be grateful for what he taught me, and I hope he knows that. Other than James, my good friend Daniel Wallace has also been my mentor. He's an incredibly talented chef who has been though the ringer but won't let the world stop him. We could all learn a lot from people with his attitude.
How did you decide on your career direction?
I just fell in love with kitchen work, the passion and the grind. Honestly, there's few things that compare to working with a solid team. It made me strive to be better than I was or am now. One of the biggest influencers is my head chef, Jake Parry. His dedication to the restaurant and his team is unbelievable and truly something to aspire to.
Could you talk me through the steps in your career in hospitality to where you are now?
Apart from my job as a kitchen porter I did a few bar jobs, but they didn't suit me. I was then offered the chance to be a chef and it just felt right. I've worked my way up to chef de partie and have been in this role for around three years now.
What networks have supported you in your career progression?
Funnily enough, none, just Elite Bistros. It does everything possible to ensure that its staff are progressing steadily.
Have you embarked on any additional career development?
I haven't completed any formal training outside of the kitchen, but I have started reading though books such as Le Guide Culinaire by Auguste Escoffier and The Mirabelle Cookbook by Marco Pierre White. These are just two that have helped to improve my general knowledge of cookery and spark a deep interest in the culinary arts.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced?
For me, it's getting over myself. There is stress in working in a kitchen, but it's far harder to cope with if you can't see and know yourself.
Do you have any regrets or things that you wish you'd done differently?
I regret not sticking at progressing with kitchen work at a younger age. I know now that it is a perfect fit for me, and if I had only known that 10 years ago, who knows where I'd be now.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
My best advice is to just listen to the people who have been doing this longer than you and to strive to be like them or better. You are only as good as you let yourself be, and it took me far too long to realise that.
What are your career goals?
My goal is just to keep on improving and learning, making every week better than the last, making every dish better than the last, until one day I'm skilled and vetted enough to own and run a restaurant myself.
Would you recommend a career in hospitality to your friends and family?
Of course I would. This industry isn't for everyone, but when you find your place in it, there's truly nothing quite like it.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Gary Usher – the man just doesn't stop. There's not a day that goes by when he's not doing something for his company or his staff. I also admire both Anthony Bourdain and Marco Pierre White as true masters of their craft.
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