Dan Hockey

The mark of a great chef is cooking for 100 diners just as well as you cook for 10.

That’s my belief and it’s certainly put to the test at Sandy Balls, where we can serve up to 1,000 meals a day. If you can scale up without losing the quality, attention to detail and sheer passion, then you are in the right career.

As head chef, I oversee a great team and together we serve up breakfasts, lunches and dinners from dawn to dusk. I’m not like the angry TV chefs. I encourage and support my team to get the best out of them. Sure, the kitchen is fast-moving – those 100 diners could all descend at once – but if the team feel valued they rise to the challenge.

When I am not in the thick of it in the kitchen, I am planning and testing menus, ordering produce or doing the dreaded paperwork – not my favourite part of the job! We have a brilliant induction programme, so I also spend time with new people.

I think the key attribute to working in a kitchen is to be present in the moment. You can’t come in and expect to plod along until home time. I tell my team that they are learning skills for life, not just for the kitchen – the ability to work under pressure, teamwork, problem solving.

When the day is over, perhaps 10.30pm, and the kitchen is cleaned down, we wind down with a beer. This job brings you together and it’s great to have a laugh and a chat before we switch off the lights and make our way home.