Professional Chef: Pedro Bezerra Neto

Getting a good taste of the chef’s life

Answers by chef, Pedro Bezerra Neto

Describe your business/ profession.
A professional chef is a highly skilled, trained cook managing all aspects of a kitchen. They are involved with selection of his brigade (kitchen crew), quality control, hygiene, food standard, menu preparation, good use of utensils, safety, welcoming customers and most importantly, guiding and teaching other future chefs, by giving them support. It’s really a rewarding career.

What does it take to be successful in this career?
Firstly, great passion for cooking. Never stop researching, checking on new trends – the food has changed a lot, exchange ideas with other chefs and travel. Travel often, to see new people and cultures, and try in some way to incorporate this into your food. It is important to be organised and able to multitask, because in the end someone will pay for what you produce. Also, a very, very supportive family, for sure. Chef Pedro said there were many ways to become a chef, with three-year certificates providing a thermometer of a kitchen environment. A chef diploma takes the same time. “In this, you see all aspects of a professional kitchen and decide on a type of chef specialisation.” Chef Pedro also mentioned certain universities offering degrees in Culinary Art over three or four years, giving a higher aspect to the food industry. Many catering companies also offer chef training courses. “This is a more hands-on apprenticeship, which takes longer learning time because you need to work all the steps in a kitchen, to qualify as Head Chef standard.”

What kind of person do you think is best suited to this type of career?
You need to be a person with a clear view of what a chef is. The hours are long and there is pressure, so you have to be patient, calm and fast-thinking – the difficulties come and before everything, your kitchen comes first.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
No doubt when what you create is exactly what you want. I get to take someone who never cooked before and give them an opportunity to get a job, feed their family. Customer satisfaction and the chance to travel and meet other chefs are also great.

What do you look for when hiring aspirant employees?
Desire to become a chef, to develop skills, to win, to pay attention. One has to be on time and able to meet deadlines.

What does your average working day consist of?
The day starts with checking what will happen in the week, reflecting on the night before, ordering what is needed for the week, checking equipment, developing some new dishes, discussing how to improve and then waiting for the busy night. After shift is finished, we make a list of what is required for the next day.

What advice can you give students who are interested in your field of study?
Ask people in the field; take the time to visit a chef, go to open days at chef schools and ask yourself if you really love to cook.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
The field is infinite, not even the sky is the limit. Chef Pedro said catering businesses in Newcastle were doing well. This has been assisted by new hotel establishments, businesses needing corporate catering and frequent new restaurants. “Food is a need, not a luxury.”

Chef Pedro’s recipe for his famous Lamb shank

You will need:
4 medium trimmed lamb shanks in a roasting pan

Season as follows
Sprinkle the following over lamb shank:
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons origanum
2 bay leaves
¼ fresh lemon juice poured over

Pour ± 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Brown the lamb shank until golden brown then braze a chopped onion with the following ingredient. ½ glass red wine (merlot) optional
2 tablespoons garlic
4 tablespoons tomato puree
4 tablespoons freshly chopped tomatoes
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup calamata olives
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 cups lamb stock.
Cover the pot and cook on low heat for two hours until tender and falling off the bone.

Tip: Check water levels often and if low add some hot water to keep meat tender as adding cold water could lead to making the meat tough. Serve with mashed potatoes and roast vegetables.

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