Sunday, 22 April 2018

5 Questions - Chef Carlos Ragone, Head Chef at The Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans, Perthshire

One of the reasons that I first started my 5 Questions posts was in order to tell the story of small producers who attended my local farmers market. Since then, many businesses and individuals have taken time out to answer 5 Questions including producers who have seen their products reach the shelves of the nations supermarkets and even a few Michelin chefs have found time to have their own stories told.
In an odd twist, I now work with a business that has very close links to the hospitality sector and I regularly hear business owners talk about the ‘superstars’ who work within their hotels or restaurants so it now seems even more important to me that I help spread the word of those unsung heroes of the hospitality sector.

Step forward Carlos Ragone, the recently appointed Head Chef at The Four Seasons Hotel in St Fillans, Perthshire. With almost 20 years of culinary experience in some of the UK’s most reputable hotels including The Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow as well as a wealth of experience gained at top restaurants on the French ski slopes, Carlos arrived at the The Four Seasons Hotel as Sous Chef last year before being promoted to Head Chef. In his new  role, he will oversee all food aspects of the hotels 2 AA Rosette restaurant as well as being heavily involved in staff development.
Here’s Carlos’ story;

How did you get started?

I started my professional culinary career at the age of 15 years, whilst attending high school.  It was my second part time job at a petite Trattoria in the heart of the west end of Glasgow, initially as an apprentice commis chef. I had worked previously in the ice cream parlour and pizza shop immediately next door until it closed due to financial difficulty.  
I had domestically trained myself to cook from the age of about 8 years. My father had passed away whilst I was seven years old, climbing in the French alps and as eldest son I felt obliged to support in any way I could my Mother and brother through the difficulty of the tragedy.  
So by the time I was accepted by the Trattoria I had a reasonably solid framework of basic kitchen skill and awareness, a good sense of duty and responsibility, and the desire to be working and earning whilst completing high school and gaining entry to university.  I spent four years on and off with the Trattoria, moving after a few years to a larger nearby competitor and facilitating in new business openings for the parent company as a senior chef de partie.  This paved the way for being offered my first head chef opportunity at the turn of 20 years old.  A pretty reasonably sized unit in Edinburgh, 150 capacity, and my first real taste of the challenges of running a very, very busy operation.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give someone looking to become a chef?

I would have to suggest, don’t.  In all reality it is a tough and gruelling occupation. That being said for the right minded individual, it can become a very rewarding and fulfilling career.  For someone beginning their journey to becoming a talented well rounded chef, I would have to suggest trying out in a part time capacity somewhere local to them, a small delicatessen, takeaway, pizzeria, restaurant, and doing a few shifts per week so that they could see at a steady pace whether it was a profession that they really wanted to proceed with.  

If so, enroll within a few educational food cookery courses to get a taste for the culinary training that might be of particular interest to them that they may not otherwise receive within the type of establishments they might initially find themselves working within.  
Finally, find a place of employment that allows them to develop in their particularl areas of culinary interest. Chefs often find themselves losing their passion for their work for numerous reasons, it’s vital that their interests are nourished in order to find fulfilment in what they do.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years’ time?

The fantasy?  To be semi-retired somewhere in the French Alps, riding big mountain powder, cooking solely for visiting family and friends. As for professional aspirations?  Back to multi-siteoperations, a step or two up the professional ladder, less time hands on day to day within a sole unit, and perhaps weekends spent with the Mrs and daughter, and time with the rest of the family.

If you could only cook one of your recipes, what would it be & why?

Southern fried chicken.  I’m a glutton for the less than healthy option.  It’s soul food, when done beautifully, just fantastic and satisfying.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

My invitation would extend to my late father, for the family to share a moment once more, to meet the new generation, so that my mother, brother and I could have something we had long missed.  Family is what counts most in our lives, that stands by ready to lift us up when we’ve fallen, to support us when others don’t. As for what would be on the menu?  A family friendly feast, that satisfied the sensations of all in attendance, simple soul satisfying food.

I would like to thank Chef Carlos for taking time out to answer 5 Questions and wish him all the best in his new role. 

The Four Seasons Hotel is now full open for the 2018 season and is only 70 miles from both Glasgow and Edinburgh so if you fancy a relaxing trip in the beautiful Perthshire countryside, check out the website for special offers.

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