Our Head Chef at Fischer’s
From apprentice to head chef in just five years… Lauren Kerr came to Corbin & King through the Bournemouth & Pool College Chef Apprenticeship programme in January 2013. She began her career with the group at The Wolseley, working her way up from Commis Chef to Sous Chef whilst she was there. In December 2018, she left the Piccadilly institution for a Marylebone favourite to assume the role of Head Chef at Fischer's.
What made you want to become a chef?
When I was younger I used to love watching Heston Blumenthal's cooking programme because I liked Science so much. Actually, it was Science that I wanted to go into one day… however, I became a vegetarian and my mum refused to cook for me! So, I started cooking my own meals at home and realised I really enjoyed it.
It wasn't until a few years later when I was applying for University that I saw an advert for a chef's scholarship (the Bournemouth & Pool College Chef Apprenticeship programme). I applied to that and to University and got accepted into both. And so, it came down to a coin toss! I tossed said coin… and enrolled in the Chef Apprenticeship programme.
What do you find most special about Fischer's?
I think it's the people, really. The people that I work with - it's a close-knit family. If you work in bigger kitchens, everyone can seem pretty independent; they do their job and go home but here, everyone's really a team. I think that's the nicest thing.
And the most challenging aspect of your job?
I'm quite young, so getting the respect of most of my chefs - who are mostly both older than me and male - was definitely the hardest thing at the beginning. However, once I started doing my own specials, people began to realise, 'oh, she may be a few years younger than us but she can cook, she knows what she's doing'. Now, we're all used to working together, I've settled in and it's great but it was very intimidating at the beginning.
How easy is it progress through the kitchens at Corbin & King?
It's so much to do with your mind set. When I was a CDP I'd be chasing Sous Chefs around saying "can you teach me this, can you teach me that". Striving to work at the level above you is really important as that means when promotions come around you are the first person they think of. Since I've been working at Corbin & King, I've tried to always chase the next challenge and promotion and as a result that's fortunately happened for me quite quickly. I've gone from being an apprentice to a head chef in five years.
Tell us a little about your new breakfast specials for Fischer's?
Many of our regular breakfast dishes are quite heavy - which is what people want of course - but it's nice to have some variation, too. The majority of people who come here are looking for an Austrian restaurant so they order the classics but I'm keen to push the healthy angle a bit more and offer some lighter dishes, too. We're now doing daily breakfast specials, which include a chia superfood porridge and a coconut and blueberry bircher muesli, along with crab rarebit on toasted sourdough and kedgeree with smoked haddock and a poached egg. Diversity is good for the chefs too - it keeps them interested as well as our customers.
Did / do you have a mentor at Corbin & King?
David Stevens (Head Chef at The Wolseley) has helped me a lot with getting into the right mind set and learning how to be a good manager. He comes to see me at Fischer's every few weeks just for a chat and to check I'm doing okay. It's so nice to have that support.
And any other chefs outside the business who you looked up to when you were growing up?
When I was very young I definitely looked up to Heston Blumenthal. Then… well, there are tons of chefs that I love to be honest. Simon Rogan is one of my favourites.
Is the atmosphere of a restaurant as important as the food?
Yes, definitely. For somewhere like Fischer's - a friendly and familiar neighbourhood restaurant - where we know many of our customers by name, it's very important. Some places you go back to for the food, others you go back to for the environment. Ideally you want both…
Do you like to cook in your spare time?
I spend the majority of my time outside of work cooking. Mostly so that I can try new dishes and new techniques. For example, I cooked three new dishes yesterday evening that might be specials in the future but we'll see… It's an expensive habit but a lot of fun!
And finally, would you recommend being a chef as a career?
Again, I think having the right mind set is the most important thing - you have to be very passionate about food to do this day in day out. It's hard work and long hours with relatively low pay until you start making your way up the ladder so you need to live and breathe it, but it's incredibly rewarding when you do.