In our first Sector Spotlight on the Hospitality sector, we hear from Gary Sutherland who is the Head Chef and owner of Twenty One. Gary started his career as a Trainee Chef at Helgi’s during which time he also completed four years at college gaining qualifications in professional cookery. He was then offered a Head Chef job at the Standing Stones Hotel in Stenness at the age of 20 before working for Neil Stevenson at Archive Coffee and then setting up Twenty One.
Can you describe a typical day in your role as Head Chef / owner?
We run two businesses, Archive Coffee and Twenty One, so I spend the vast majority of my day in the kitchens. A typical day includes food preparation as well as food service. Between the two places we serve food from 8:30am until 9pm so we have most of the day covered.
How did you end up in this role?
I started my career going through various courses at Orkney College as well as working as a Trainee Chef at Helgi’s which had just newly opened at the time. I paired the two of these together which helped a lot. After finishing a four-year stint at college I was then offered my first Head Chef role at the Standing Stones Hotel in Stenness at the age of 20.
It was a real learning curve for me, going from a Chef to a Head Chef is a big step up in responsibility but one I really enjoyed. It showed me a lot of the basics, most of which I still use today.
From there I got offered the chance to be head chef at Neil Stevenson’s new project Archive Coffee at the Old Library. It was great to be asked to be part of the setup process there and we’ve continued to push on from that point with Twenty One coming along two years later.
What is the best thing about your job?
I just love being a chef, the pressure of working in a busy kitchen is something that I’ve relished ever since I started working in kitchens. Customers come in and spend their hard-earned money to eat our food and seeing them leave happy is a good feeling.
What is the worst thing about your job?
I wouldn’t say there is a ‘worst thing’ but I will say to be a good chef you must have a lot of dedication and be willing to work really hard, you definitely cannot go missing during a busy shift.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
To be a good chef you must be willing to work as a team, no one can do the job on their own. Communication with the rest of the team is key, if everyone knows what’s going on the service will run a lot smoother.
What qualifications do you have?
At Orkney College I did my SVQ 2, SVQ 3 and HNC in Professional Cookery.
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
I would definitely recommend this industry to young people. Hospitality is a sector which has been hit hard during the pandemic but one, especially in Orkney, that is ready to bounce back and continue to push forward like it always does. People will always be looking for somewhere great to eat and drink so if you’re willing to learn and work hard there will always be an employer looking to employ you.
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