Chef Profile December 2018: Fraser Cunningham, senior sous chef at The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast
Fraser Cunningham, senior sous chef at The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast, talks to HRNI
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING?
I got into cooking at a young age. My first job was as a fruit picker in a large estate in Scotland collecting fruit for the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant within the hotel. Being involved in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen was exciting, and seeing the dishes produced from the amazing organic produce grown on the doorstep really inspired me to want to work in the industry and learn how to create just as amazing food.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
I am currently in the final year of a business degree in culinary arts management at Ulster University. It is a four-year degree course in which you learn everything needed to successfully run a kitchen.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE?
After picking the fruit in the estate grounds, I became a commis chef at the age of 16 in Glenapp Castle in Scotland. I left the kitchen two years later and decided to take a break for a few years but my love for cooking and interest in the industry brought me back. I started at Malone Lodge where again I was a commis chef for a year, but was quickly promoted to chef de partie (CDP) after a lot of hard work and learning. I then moved to the Fitzwilliam Hotel as a CDP and started studying for my degree at the same time. I work five days in the kitchen and, on my two days off, I go to university to study. This dedication paid off as I was promoted to junior sous chef within a year while continuing to work and study simultaneously. I made senior sous chef after another year.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
Starting off in the industry, I had the chance to work with two amazing chefs, Tristan Welsh and Matt Weedon. Both chefs used the best local produce (mainly from the estate gardens) in their cooking and taught their teams the importance of local, organic vegetables. From then, the chef that has inspired me the most is my current Head Chef Dean Butler as he is the best manager of people I have met.
WHEN DID YOU JOIN YOUR CURRENT VENUE?
I joined the Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast in August 2015.
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE OF COOKING?
My style of cooking is simple and classically French. I have a passion for nose-to-tail dining so try to incorporate as much of the animal as possible and pair it with the best quality produce available.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
My food sourcing policy is simple – local, sustainably grown produce.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
There are now 10 chefs in the kitchen team.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
There are many chefs’ careers I would wish to emulate, from Gordon Ramsey to Dan Barber to Tommy Banks. But from chefs I have worked with, I would wish to emulate Tristan Welsh. Winning competitions, heading up the kitchen at Glenapp Castle, moving on to head up Petrus, having his own show on the Good Food network, then returning to London for a new venture- he is someone to emulate.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Between work and studying for my degree, there isn’t too much time for interests outside of work, but I love to go and eat somewhere new anytime I get the chance.