John McFadden – Executive Chef
Posted September 14, 2017, by Jenny Sakr
Since the young age of 10, John has loved being in the kitchen creating dishes that “warms the soul”. Over his 30-year career, John has had many honours including cooking for 80 New York food critics, winning best Hotel Restaurant and being on the judging panel for Bocuse d`Or. See how John’s career as a chef and in hospitality has allowed him to be “living the dream”.
What did you study to be a chef?
I finished School in year 10, needed pass grades in Maths & English to start my indentured apprenticeship.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Since the age of 10 I knew I wanted to be a chef.
What was your first job?
Kitchen hand at the age of 12.
Explain a typical day at work
Start by saying a big hello to the entire team, then make sure all restaurants are set and ready for service and food quality is maintained.
Check rosters and daily coverage of the hotel.
Morning kitchen team meeting with the entire team to pick a few key areas to focus on for the day and provide feedback from the previous day
Department head meeting for the entire hotel to highlight and articulate matters of interest which other departments need to be aware of.
Menu development and menu roll outs, recipe cards, images and setting the team up.
Meet suppliers and be familiar with latest product development.
Daily ordering for the entire hotel.
Assisting the kitchen team during service and supporting the teams in delivering an exceptional dining experience.
Review all event sheets and make sure mise en place is in good supply along with roster coverage.
Review food and labour costs for the previous day and make sure budgets are maintained.
Provide feedback to all teams members to make sure they are aware of their contribution to our success.
Before leaving thank everyone for their work.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?
Being invited to cook at The James Beard Foundation in New York. Also, being asked to assist the judging panel for Bocuse d`Or to select The Australian Culinary Team to compete at The Culinary Olympics along with being Head Judge for Chef of The Year.
Name the best and worst parts of your job
I love food, ingredients, creating food is about generosity and it comes from the heart and warms the soul. I enjoy developing my teams and helping them grow and achieve their aspirations. I enjoy the camaraderie in hospitality, work hard, play hard, it’s not for the faint hearted. Like any chosen profession it takes a lot of sacrifices, commitment and integrity to be recognised, this industry will push every one of those boundaries. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?
I’m in control of my own destiny; I will only get out what I’m willing to put in.
What do you wish someone had told you before starting as a chef?
Just how exciting and rewarding it really can be.
Where do people have to start to be a chef and what is a standard salary package for this role?
To be a qualified chef you can now start at school and do hospitality with work placement. This then dovetails into an apprenticeship in commercial cookery. These roles are not based on a salary but on an hourly wage which changes depending on the shift/penalty rates.
Name a career highlight
Wow, there have been a few, however winning best Hotel Restaurant with a new team and then being invited to cook at The James Beard Foundation for 80 New York food critics was pretty spectacular.
What’s next for you?
I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into a Group Executive Chef role across Pan Pacific Hotels & Park Royal Hotels across Australia.
Tell us more about yourself outside of the kitchen
When I was younger I played representative rugby league. My dad told me when I started my apprenticeship I was offered a two-year scholarship with a Sydney club who would put me through my last two years of school as long as I played for their club. Dad said my career was more important than sport. I just wanted to know how far I could have gone. I’m lucky enough to have and still have an amazing career and love what I do. I cherish the support of my family to allow me to do what I do, it blows me away, and I’m surrounded by amazing food, chefs, friends and people, I’m living the dream.
Inspired by John's career story? Kickstart your very own journey in hospitality by enquiring about a course today!
Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.