TALK: Ronnie Kimbugwe, head chef Bel & The Dragon


Ronnie Kimbugwe, former sous chef of Gordon Ramsay at Claridges creates menus that boast the very best in British cuisine at each of the six hotels in the Bel & The Dragon portfolio. Here, he talks us through his typical day.

It may be a cliché but no two days are ever the same for me! There are now six in the Bel & The Dragon group with our most recent country inn opening in Odiham this month (November).

I spend my time travelling between them all but I am based at Bel & The Dragon, Cookham which is one of the oldest coaching inns in England.

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Located on Cookham village’s picture postcard High Street, a short walk from The Thames Path and under a 30 minute drive from Central London, it’s a very special spot.

8.30am: I live locally to Cookham so my commute is pretty easy. I arrive and have a very large sweet coffee before heading straight to the kitchen to say good morning to the team and check in with the breakfast chef who has been serving our overnight guests breakfast from 7.00am. I then check all the deliveries that have arrived from our suppliers for the day ahead.

9.30 am: I like to have at least half an hour in front of a computer to check bookings for the day and next day. I will also go through my emails which are mostly messages from suppliers with prices for the next day; for example our fish of the day changes daily so I will check out the next day’s offering. At the moment in the run up to Christmas I am ordering lots of samples for festive dishes so I will check through these; it can be anything from currants for Christmas pudding to turkey.

10.00am: It’s back to the kitchen and all hands on deck for lunchtime. I oversee all the dishes and am there to offer my team support in the kitchen.

11.45am: The kitchen is cleaned down in preparation for lunch service and I brief the front of house on any specials for the day.

12.00pm: We open for lunch; service lasts for around three hours and the time flies by.

3.30pm: We strip the kitchen down after lunch service and everyone goes on a break. It is essential that all my team take a rest and have some time out so that they can return for evening service fresh.

5.15pm: It’s back to the kitchen for everyone to get ready for evening service.

5.45pm: Another briefing session for the front of house team, running through specials, wine training and anything else for the evening. We can have up to 15 people for evening service so it’s key that everyone is fully briefed and communicating with each other.

I run the pass along with my sous chef. We have an open kitchen so I often get guests coming up and talking to me which I love! If a guest has any questions about the menu they’d like the chef to answer I’m always happy to head to their table, or just simply show them the steak they have ordered before we cook it.

10.30/11.00pm: The last pudding orders are received. We clean and strip the kitchen down and the team finish by about 11.15pm /11.30pm. I work with a great team and we often all have a quick drink on our way home to finish off the day.

How many people do you manage? I manage 30 people at Cookham.

Favourite part of the job? The people and the food; I love working with people, showing them a good time and ensuring they enjoy great food.

Biggest challenge? Now that we are a group of six, it is essential that consistency is maintained across the group.

Biggest inspiration? I have worked with some fantastic people during my time as a chef and it is hard to pinpoint one person. I hugely admire the directors of Longshot Country Inns and what we have achieved with the Bel & The Dragon brand.




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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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