Stuart Tarff, 33, was crowned Lexington’s Chef of the Year in 2016 and went onto win the Elior Culinary Competition. He is based at London Business School and is known within the business for his original approach to patisserie and love of apples. We were lucky enough to steal Stuart out of the kitchen to find out a bit more about his history, what drives him and life as a Pastry Chef.
My mum is a cook and my next-door neighbour taught cooking at a local school so my brother and I grew up trying new things in the kitchen. We both loved it and I guess they inspired us both.
Whilst I was trained at Westminster Kingsway I worked at Harrods, across their 20+ restaurants. After graduating I worked with award-winning Stuart Pate, Executive Pastry Chef, at Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane.
I went with Stuart Pate to Rick Stein’s restaurant and in 2003, I helped him open Rick Stein’s Patisserie. But I found Cornwall a little too quiet so headed out to the Bahamas for a new challenge. There I worked under Chef Jean-Georges, at Café Martinique, on Paradise Island, which was an incredible experience – very busy but lots of fun.
I then went on to help open a series of hotels, working with a team to develop menus. This was an exciting time – we spent two weeks in each place training a team of chefs. We worked six days a week and would do 1,200 covers – it was crazy.
When I got back to the UK I wanted to create a little more work-life balance, which I know contract catering can often provide – my brother worked for Lexington Catering so I decided to contact them.
I haven’t looked back!
I am so pleased that I gained experience working in a range of commercial restaurants and travelled early on in my career. It gave me the opportunity to work under some fantastic chefs and experience different cultures. I developed some amazing skills, which I’ve been able to bring to Lexington.
Lots of people have supported me throughout my career. But Stuart Pate acted as a mentor very early on in my career. He was a real inspiration and gave me the values I still work with today: attention to detail, never give up, don’t be scared to push boundaries.
There’s just myself and my sous chef, Jennie Miettinen, who work on the pastry section here at London Business School. As a two-person team, we work incredibly closely and each day we bounce ideas around and decide together what we are going to create.
We have four outlets that we supply fresh pastry to each day. We also provide desserts and pastries for regular functions at the School.
The shops open at 7am here at London Business School so we get the pastry to the shops first thing and start preparing our other deserts for lunch and dinner. We make four to six different deserts a day. In the afternoon we start thinking about what we are going to make for the next day.
As well as the day-to-day pastry offer we focus on fine dining so what we provide is incredibly varied.
I like to change what I do, so yes, and as we have access to more ingredients things develop. Also, there has been a rise in the number of customers with allergens and intolerances and therefore we need to take this into account when developing our menus.
– Prepared to work hard
– Good attention to detail
– Good listening skills
It’s got to be a pie and mash.
One day I would absolutely love to open my own patisserie shop. Watch this space!