Focus on Lee Underhill, Head Chef, Chartwell
“I’ve always wanted to work in catering. Ever since I was eight years old I knew there was nothing else I wanted do, and I’ve dedicated my life to it ever since I left school. I’ve worked in lots of different places including hotels, restaurants and gastropubs. I’m now the Head Chef at Chartwell, and I’ve worked here for just over a decade.
To begin with, I decided to work for the National Trust because of the good hours – I liked the fact I wouldn’t have to work split shifts or work every evening. Now, though, there are so many more reasons why I like working here. The shift in focus I’ve seen over the last five years or so towards local and sustainable food is particularly inspiring. Today I went to the garden, picked leaves and then came back and used them in our salads. Most chefs don’t get that opportunity. The National Trust catering teams really care what goes into their food, and where those ingredients came from. This holistic ethos is shared across the whole of the organisation. We’re all coming from the same direction.
The National Trust also has a really positive approach towards training and career development and there are always plenty of opportunities to improve how you perform. I’ve recently covered Advanced Hygiene and Time Management and I’m looking forward to doing lots more in the future. I would encourage anyone who’s thinking of working in catering for The National Trust to come and join us.
We work hard but have fun doing it, and the hours are good. And it’s not like a standard catering job – there’s more scope to it than just getting the food out. You can meet other departments and become involved in their side of things, so you’re not just stuck in the kitchen. You also have more opportunity to get involved in community activities like the Crumble Rumble that we did recently. We had cards from the kids to thank us today. Stuff like that really makes it worthwhile.”