Chef's Pass - inploi meets Luke Selby, Senior Sous Chef at Dabbous inploi Team | 06.12.2016
Previous winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Young National Chef of the Year Awards (YNCOTY) and former Junior Sous Chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, Luke Selby has grafted his way from blackberry picking in his back garden, through the culinary ranks of some of London’s top restaurants. Current Senior Sous Chef at Ollie Dabbous’ Michelin-starred restaurant, Dabbous, Luke Selby is one to keep an eye on.
Chefs may be reportedly losing their skills in farm-to-plate knowledge, but Luke’s skill in taking food foraged from his back garden or the local beach was gained from a young age when he and his brothers would go fishing, musseling and crabbing to find ingredients for dinner. Furthermore, with his parents both working in the NHS, Luke would often cook dinner for his younger siblings.
He began competing in chef competitions from the age of 16, starting with the Rotary ‘Young Chef’ Competition, where one of the judges, Raymond Blanc spotted his potential. Although he came second in his competition, Luke wrote to Raymond to ask if he could undertake work experience at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
In hindsight, it seems his prior foraging served him well, as he gained a week’s work experience in the kitchen at the two-Michelin star hotel located in Oxfordshire, where Raymond Blanc is keen on using seasonal produce grown in the hotel garden. Off the back of this experience, he was offered a Commis position at Le Manoir, which Luke took up once he had finished his A levels.
“I knew that being a Chef was where my heart was.”
Luke stayed at Le Manoir for six years, continuing to compete in various competitions, including the Academy Culinary of Arts ‘Annual Awards of Excellence’ (2012), Craft Guild of Chef’s ‘Graduate Awards’ (2013) and ‘Young National Chef of the Year Award’ (2014), being awarded top prize in all three! Competition environments are tough and very time-pressured environments, with the bar set high for culinary preparation, presentation and taste standards. The Craft Guild’s National Chef of the Year competition is the UK’s most respected chef competition, drawing a high calibre of entrants and an even more impressive panel of judges. With over 30 Michelin stars shared across the judging panel, it’s a wonder how these young chefs keep their cool. Speaking to The Caterer about his YNCOTY victory, Luke commented, “I’m so surprised. It hasn’t really sunk in. I was hoping to win, but loads of stuff happened during the competition; my oven didn’t work, and it all started to go wrong at one point. But I managed to bring it back.”
Competitions require a lot of practice and perseverance from the industry’s young talent. However, they also serve to help chefs to explore the industry beyond their own kitchens and put their skills to the test. The finalists of Young National Chef of the Year 2014 were treated to a trip to Scotland - staying in a lodge on Loch Goil, where they had the chance to go mackerel fishing and clay pigeon shooting, visit local suppliers and a whisky distillery. On winning the competition, Luke and the NCOTY, Russell Bateman were also awarded a trip to Lyon in France. There they dined at three-Michelin-star Restaurant Regis et Jacque Marcon in Saint Bonnet le Froid, and visited some of the region’s best vineyards.
Selby commented: “Winning the YNCOTY for me was a personal goal and great recognition for doing what I love doing. It’s opened a lot of doors”.
During his six years at Le Manoir, Luke rose from Commis to Sous Chef position, and at this point decided to move to Restaurant Gordon Ramsey in Chelsea. Starting as a Chef Partie, he left a year later as Junior Sous to join the team at Dabbous where he currently holds the role of Senior Sous Chef.
Rather unusually, some of Luke’s fondest memories from his career come from the time when he was able to work closely with his brothers, Theodore and Nathaniel who are also trained chefs, during his time at Le Manoir (putting us in mind of the young Roux brothers). Like many young chefs, Luke aspires to run his own successful restaurant - cooking food in his own style, and perhaps, being able to share this experience with his brothers.
It seems to us that the hospitality industry’s rising stars share several common factors: a passion for their industry, strong mentorship, the desire to graft - learn their trade and expand their knowledge, as well as an innate ability to take their own advice:
“It’s a fantastic and rewarding industry to be in but you will have to put in years of hard work to succeed. Get into a good kitchen with a great chef and soak up as much knowledge as you can. Do your time and learn your craft properly and it will pay off. Constantly ask questions, and strive to be better. For now I’m going to keep learning and developing myself and we’ll see what happens!”
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More of our Chef’s Pass series here: Chef's Pass - inploi meets the Founders of The TMRW Project
About the author: Victoria Bushnell is Head of Marketing/PR at inploi.