In the first of a series of blog posts taking you behind the scenes at the QEII, D’Arcy Demerse, Head of Pastry, gives us the lowdown on a typical day in the kitchen.
Tell me about a typical day at the QEII Centre
I leave my house in Alexandra Palace at 3.45am and cycle into the QEII, it is a relaxing way to get to work as the roads are so quiet and it only takes me 35 minutes. Once I arrive, the bicycle is locked up and I change into my running gear, it is nice to get 8 miles under my belt before work as I am a keen runner. It is a really motivating start to the day to run past the London Eye and Buckingham Palace.
Once I get back to the QEII, there is quick turnaround to shower and change before getting straight into preparing breakfast items as needed. The most common breakfast items requested by clients are Danish pastries and granola pots but on occasions we can even prepare things such as waffles.
My team arrive at 6.45am. Once breakfast is complete I organise their tasks and schedule for the day. Whilst the team are getting on with this, I attend the daily QEII Taste meeting at 09:30 to discuss the day ahead and look ahead to forthcoming events. This ensures the events go smoothly and pre-empts any potential challenges. After the meeting I head straight back up to the team so that we can complete the dishes, most commonly chocolate delice and Eton mess, for the day and begin preparing for the week ahead.
By 1pm, all food prepared that morning has been transferred from the kitchens and is set out ready to be served to delegates. I have also completed all paperwork for the orders that I require for the week ahead.
The intensity of the food preparation in the morning, is replaced by the calm of the afternoon when the kitchen is cleaned from top to bottom and closed down. By 4.30pm this is all finalised and I head off to pick up my bicycle.
What are your key day to day tasks?
At the QEII Centre we have a strong sustainability focus, so it is essential that every time we prepare food, there is minimal wastage and where feasible using anything leftover in the preparation of other dishes. I can do this as I am involved in planning all menus for the week (from events to the staff canteen) and therefore can look ahead to how leftovers can be combined.
Looking after the stock is also key, not only ensuring that we have enough of each item for the week ahead, but also rotating the stock so that it is used in the correct order. This is a key task as we always want to ensure that the freshest ingredients are available in every dish we produce.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
The main challenge is orders not arriving at the expected time or date. When this does occur, our response is influenced by how much of a setback it is to the team. If the delay is only slight, the team will do everything they can to claw back the time. However, if it has a significant impact, we will look at alternate ways we can make the dish.
Fortunately, this is not something we come across very often as we always try and place the orders ahead of time to give us a buffer in case there any issues with the delivery.
What is your favourite thing about the job?
I very rarely have to work weekends, so it is nice to have the work life balance and get to spend a lot of time with my family
Tell us some fun facts about you!
I am a keen runner and have completed the Richmond marathon in 3 hours 29 minutes and Brighton marathon in 3 hours 40 minutes. My next challenge is an ultramarathon in Cape Town in April 2020. I plan to complete this in under 5 hours.
I am engaged to my beautiful partner Lee-Anne who is from South Africa. We have two lovely children, Alexa 9 and Brody 7. I am originally from Canada but moved to the UK in 1997