A Day In The Life: Stephen Cummings

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Stephen Cummings, Head Chef at City Screen Picturehouse in York, was chosen to take part in July’s 2019 Chef Sessions Live event. Here he gives an insight into a day in the life of a chef and discusses keeping up with the latest food trends.

Chef Stephen Cummings in action in the kitchen

Tell us about your chef background. Where have you trained and worked? What experiences have you had?

I’ve worked in professional kitchens for 26+ years, starting in 1990 at 14 years old as a kitchen porter in my local village pub, The Black Bull. Over the years I have worked in both independent and national chain restaurants, large hotel groups, small boutique hotels, gastro pubs and café bars. I became a head chef in 2002 whilst working at the Ye old Star inn.

In 2003 I opened my own restaurant Bobo Lobo, which is still a brilliant Latin American restaurant in York. However, I sold my part ownership 7 years later as I felt I needed a change. I decided to go back to my roots and started working in gastro pubs again. Since 2018 I have worked for Picturehouse Cinemas using my experience of world cuisine to enhance the customer experience within the group. Originally, all my professional training was done on the job through my head chefs and mentors. Finally, after 20 years of working in kitchens, I decided to get my professional qualifications and I gained GNVQ level 2 and 3 in professional cookery.


What does a ‘typical’ day as a chef look like for you?

A typical day starts at about 08:30 for me. I open up the kitchen, accept and check all deliveries, set up and turn everything on, organise and start the prep (mise en place) for the day’s service. Between 09:30 and 10:00 the other chefs come on duty and start prepping. At City Screen we serve breakfast from 10:00 till 12:00, then lunch and dinner service from 12:00 till 21:30.

During these times I'm mainly on the pass serving on average 100 covers a day. I help out where needed too, from helping the commis chefs to catch up on prep, to a bit of washing up or catching up on paperwork in the office. I’m a very hands-on chef and will do what needs doing at any time. Once the kitchen is closed at 21:30 I check the fridges for the next days prep and place my orders. I help with the clean down normally I finish about 22:00.


How do you keep up to date with the latest food trends?

Food trends are ever evolving; I’ve found recently they’re coming from the Middle East, Asia, and South America. I research unusual and new ingredients or spices... and then try and source them, which can be hard! I create dishes through trial and error using my experience and I generally try to be ahead of the curve when it comes to food trends.


Can you name one ingredient you love to cook with and one that you hate?

My favourite ingredient is pork. From pigs head brawn, the gelatinous cheeks, the luxurious fillet, beautiful brined shoulder, slow-roasted fatty belly, hocks and trotters and not forgetting the black pudding, crispy ear or pork (scratchings) skin and the irony flavour of the offal.

The ingredient I hate is pasta, even though there are hundreds of types, with probably an equal amount of sauces to accompany it and even more ways to cook it, I find it uninteresting and generally never use it on any menu.


Which other chefs inspire you?

I'm generally inspired by most chefs, from food vans and street food vendors to the three Michelin starred chefs working in the best restaurants.


You’ve taken part in Chef Sessions Live. How did you find the day?

I really enjoyed the experience of the Chef Sessions Live day, watching and talking to the other three chefs about the techniques used to create them. I also liked talking to them about their backgrounds and inspirations and discovering how they were using the CHEF® products.


How have you found working with our CHEF products? Which is your favourite in the range and why?

I’ve mainly used the CHEF Lemon Paste and the CHEF Black Garlic Paste. I think both ingredients are full of flavour and save me precious time in the kitchen. Especially the Lemon Paste, as preserving lemons takes weeks and the paste gives my dishes the intense lemon flavour I'm after.


To learn more about a typical day as a chef, check out our interviews with other top chefs such as Peter Woods, Marcel Acostoaie and Federico Quaglia.

If you have a story to share and would like to feature in our ‘Day in the Life of a Chef’ series, please get in touch