What is it like working in Michelin-starred cuisine? (interview with Philipp Müller)

This time Mystery Tasting is an interesting conversation with a young chef.
Philipp Müller is only 23 years old and has been working in gastronomy for 8 years. He is currently junior sous chef at the 2* Michelin starred Jacobs Restaurant in Hamburg. We've known each other for 3 years, so I asked him a few questions about how a person lives when working in a fine-dining restaurant.

Firstly, I would like to ask what your normal working day at Jacobs Restaurant looks like, how many hours a day you work, what do you do if you are out of work?

My daily routine is mostly the same, first I look at the plan of what will happen during the day, have a coffee and plan my day. I am currently in the position of Saucie (note: the person responsible for everything in terms of meat and sauces - one of the most important roles in the kitchen). I start cooking by preparing the ingredients we need on that day. In addition, I have to organize and timing everything, which is very important in my work. Next I check the raw materials, solve the questions that come to me.
The chef has a sous and juior sous chef in his kitchen to deal with these daily tasks, and the chef himself has as much time as possible to eat or talk to the media (Mr. Thomas Martin is in the media on a weekly basis). He has no time to deal with these small things.
Evening meals start at 7 pm and can last until midnight. It depends on when guests arrive and how long they want to eat. The preparation of food also starts the stress you are already accustomed to in gastronomy, the food must be perfectly and quickly prepared, everything must run as hours and there is no time for mistakes. Also, there is a person who evaluates restaurants, so we are thrilled every day and want to do the best.

As for the hours I work per day, it can sometimes be 10-12. Throughout the day we plan things, eat, make orders, have meetings with waiters and much more. But there are days when we work less, but there is always more on holidays.

After work, we have to clean everything perfectly, make orders the next day, talk about what we didn't do that day, to improve it, and on the other hand, tell us what we did. Praise is also very important.

Sometimes we have a glass of good wine and enjoy the end of the day, building relationships in the team is very important, you have to think that cooking is not an individual sport but a teamwork. No one could do it alone. And we should not forget the next day, because everything starts again.

In a year I have 25 days of vacation and plus overtime, which are not replaced in any way.

Každé povolanie má svoje výhody a nevýhody. Čo máš najradšej na svojej práci?

Versatility. Every day is different, I always try and learn new things. There are an unlimited number of things to improve on. Sometimes I wake up and think of an interesting combination of food, I order the ingredients that I need to prepare, create it, and so we evaluate with colleagues. Everyone expresses their opinion and we can even improve this recipe. Every chef will be happy if his food becomes part of the menu, it is a good feeling.

In fine-dining restaurants you can contribute some of your ideas to a certain extent, these restaurants have more financial resources and you can realize your ideas more than a middle-class restaurant.

I think there are no disadvantages, at least I don't see them that way. Of course, you have to keep in mind that you work even on holidays and days when others are at home with your family. Everyone who works in gastronomy gets used to it.
If that is why people working in gastronomy are in a bad mood, you should probably change jobs. Because cooking should not be just a job, but a passion where you should work with love.

How do you manage stress at work?

Stress is a very good question. Because we always try to do things perfectly and of course we are under time pressure. The time when we prepare ingredients is a quiet atmosphere in the kitchen, the music plays and we have fun in the team.

But when food is released, the music is turned off, everyone takes their place and is focused on their work and only says the most necessary. It is done so that everyone has to prepare their raw materials eg. within 5 minutes. After five minutes everything must be tasty, hot, just as we want it to be.

Then there is no time for any jokes or the like. Everybody has to concentrate my work to the maximum. If someone makes a mistake, it will affect the whole team. This means that if my meat stays in the oven a little longer than it should, the dispensing of food will be delayed by 15 minutes as new meat must be prepared. It may happen that guests complain. It's the worst thing that can happen. Then we all feel the most stress.

Do you have a favorite chef to work with on the team?

I do not have a favorite cook, I rather have those I admire and I am amazed at how they came to cooking and what they did in the gastro industry.
For example, Klaus Erfort from Saarbrücken, Germany, is one of the best chefs in the world and has become Germany's best chef for 7 consecutive years. I should join his team in September as Sous-chef, where I will improve and learn a lot in cooking. This is an opportunity that I cannot miss as a young chef. Working for this restaurant and Klaus himself is a great step in my career. If I work there for 2 to 3 years as a Sous-chef then I would have a lot of opportunities in my career in the future.

What is your favorite food and dessert and the food you don't like??

It is almost impossible for me to choose my favorite food. But pasta with salmon from my mother always reminds me of my childhood, I always enjoy eating them.
Also, I can not choose food that I do not like or do not eat, you should simply taste everything.

What ingredients do you prefer to use for cooking?

It's very hard to say one of my favorite ingredients. But butter and salt are an integral part of my kitchen. They are among the most important ingredients.
Salt, pepper, nutmeg and butter will always help you to taste the vegetables or meat properly.

Do you have any recommendations for a good restaurant? What criteria does a quality restaurant have for you?

A good restaurant is not an expensive restaurant for me. I think it's about the quality of the raw materials and how they are processed. If you meet these criteria, you won half the success.
Veľmi dôležitý je priestor, zdvorilí čašníci a chutné víno, k príjemnému večeru nesmú chýbať hlavne tí správni ľudia. Vtedy si ten podnik užijem.

What are your dreams and goals for the future?

I have no dreams for the future. Of course I would like to have a family, children and my own house. But these are such general wishes for the future. As for work, I will concentrate on the present moment. My closest goal is to work well with Klaus Erfort and make new contacts. The future will show whether I will have my own restaurant or be a chef in a restaurant. However, to cook with my culinary style and be awarded a Michelin star would be a very nice reflection of my work, effort, love and time that I have invested in my career over the years.

Finally, since I know that you know a few Slovaks, I would like to ask what you think of us, how you Germans perceive us, what you like and do not like about us.

Since I know Slovaks only from gastronomy, it is difficult to answer this question. Those I know, hold together, work very concentrated and calm, which is very important in gastronomy. I would like to say hello and thanks to Milan, Dominik, Simona, Jakub and everyone else.

I am also interested in, how it is during the covid-19 crisis, the hotel and restaurant are closed? What does it look like in Germany, do you have an estimated date when you will return to work?

Aktuálnu situáciu s Covid-19 pandémiou, nikto z nás nikdy nezažil, všetky reštaurácie, hotely a kaviarne sú zatvorené a nikto presne nevie, ako to bude pokračovať. Dúfame, že sa budeme môcť vrátiť znova do práce v polovici až koncom mája.
Most people take it seriously, but there are many young people who take it a little more relaxed. However, I think it is the same in every country.

Philipp, thank you for a frank and extensive interview.
I wish you every success so that your work will fill you with joy all your life!
And I can not forget, you are always welcome in Slovakia!

2 comments on “Aké je to pracovať v michelinskej kuchyni? (interview s Philippom Müllerom)Add yours →

  1. Sehr nette interview 😁 Mir hat sehr gut gefallen wie jemand seine Arbeit lieben und schätzen kann.

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