Name: Anna Hansen
Job title: Chef and Restaurateur
Time in current role: 8 years
Anna owns and runs her two Modern Pantry restaurants in London.
How did you land your current job?
I own my own businesses – two restaurants both called The Modern Pantry. I fell into cooking after travelling to the UK from NZ in my early twenties. I was dishwashing at an amazing new restaurant in Soho when one of the chefs left, so the owners (Margot and Fergus Henderson of Rochelle Canteen and St John fame respectively) offered to train me. I never looked back.
What are the key functions of your role?
I still cook most days on the line (in the kitchen) so when I’m in that role I oversee the rest of my team of chefs, giving them guidance as and when required. I place orders, check deliveries and organise, check dish costings to make sure we are hitting the correct gross profit, write the rota which changes weekly, cook food for my customers and create new dishes for the ever-changing menu.
When I’m on an office shift I spend my time writing recipes, planning events and brainstorming interesting and exciting things to do to keep both my staff and customers and indeed myself enthusiastic about being at The Modern Pantry.
Talk us through your typical day at work
I wake at 5:45am to get the 6:36 train into the city, arriving at work around 7:15am. We start work at 7:30am except for the breakfast chef who arrives at 6:30am.
I get into my uniform and then fill in the temperature sheet checking fridges, freezers, dishwasher and hot water temperatures as well as probing certain deliveries to make sure the produce is being delivered at the correct temperature. I receive and put away deliveries chasing up missing items, returning substandard or incorrect ones.
Next I check my section (cold larder, fish, plancha or pastry) to make sure my prep list is correct and familiarise myself with what’s there. Once I’m satisfied I start food preparation. Each section is responsible for preparing every item that they serve throughout the day. I prep, fielding phone calls and queries from the managers, chefs and other employees, throughout the morning.
At around 10:45am our breakfast chef starts serving, which is usually poached eggs, toast, roast tomatoes, mushrooms and bacon.
At 11:00am we start setting up for service. We cook for between 30 and 90 people for lunch so it’s important to be ready for whatever may come! Lunch service has usually wound down by 2:30pm at which point we clean down our sections and write a new prep list for the afternoon.
I usually have our managers’ meetings at this time where we discuss what’s gone on over the past week and what’s coming up in the next. This is also the time of day when I have other meetings with suppliers, PR or people who’ve booked the restaurant for a special occasion such as a wedding. For the latter we also do tastings to make sure the bride and groom are happy with their choices.
I return to the kitchen and then prep until 4:30pm if I’m on a day shift, or continue to prep until the evening service begins at 6pm if I’m on a double shift.
We have a tapas bar also so technically the kitchen never closes but it’s usually quieter in the afternoon. Evening service runs until 10:30pm after which time we clean down, write prep lists and call through the ordering for the following day. Then we go home. We’re usually finished by 11:30pm and I’m home and in bed by 12:30am.
How would your colleagues describe you in three words?
I asked my head chef, Rob Mcleary, who’s worked with me for the last eight years as I have no clue to be honest – pedantic, bossy and abrupt would be my guess. He said “caring, inspiring, gifted”.
Your favourite part of the job?
That’s hard to answer as there are many favourite parts! I especially like the creative aspect of what I do. Coming up with new dishes as the seasons change or when we come across a new ingredient. It’s fun and challenging.
I also love making it through busy service feeling 100% happy about every dish we’ve served and the feeling of pride that comes with hearing positive comments from our guests about their experience.
…and the part you could do without?
The restaurant industry is fairly transient at the best of times so we’re almost constantly training and recruiting which is draining both emotionally and financially.
Plans for the future?
The second Modern Pantry opened just over a year ago and is still very much in its infancy, and the first one continues to need as much attention as always so I plan to focus on maintaining the quality of food and service at both. I also have a three-year-old daughter whom I love to spend as much time as possible with so I think I have my work cut out!
Do you have any advice for others aspiring to break into your field?
I think the most important part when seeking to become anything in life is to act with integrity and work like you mean it. I have an Anthony Burrill slogan imprinted in my mind which is “Work hard and be nice to people”. This is all anybody need ever do. LLY
[Originally published in March 2017]