Interview: Giles Thompson
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As Executive Chef at The Earl of March and former Executive Head Chef at the Ritz Hotel, Giles Thompson is exceptional and highly experienced in his field. The National Student catches up with him at West Dean’s Chilli Fiesta where he hosts the Cookery Theatre shows.
Giles Thompson initially became involved with the Chilli Fiesta around ten years ago after moving to the area from London; he was introduced to the festival by food writer and chef Rosemary Moon.
‘She invited me on my arrival with my background from the Ritz and London, being sort of a new kid on the block,’ he says.
Giles Thompson with Joe McFadden at West Dean's Chilli Fiesta
The festival, Giles says, ‘promotes a different angle of our industry, focusing on one product'.
‘I think the chilli particularly has quite a big influence,’ he says. ‘You seriously couldn’t have considered [it] ten years ago… but here we are today with a big culture of spice and hot food.’
With a family background in farming and butchery, Giles grew up around food and kitchens, starting his first part-time kitchen job while still a student.
‘When it got to a point where I decided that I wanted to take it more seriously,’ he says, ‘I took some good advice from people that I knew were serious people in the industry, and they pointed me in the right direction which led to my career development.’
For students, he considers it hugely beneficial to take an active interest in fresh home cooking.
He says, ‘I think that being in a student life, it’s very healthy… when you’re cooking communally and sharing dishes, sharing different cultures sometimes and different ideas.’
For those hoping to pursue cooking as a career, Giles says, ‘I think there’s no mystery that it’s a very intensive profession - but what isn’t?
‘It’s a great profession to be in,’ he continues. ‘It’s exciting, it’s vibrant, it’s ever-moving, it’s ever-changing.’
Giles talks brightly when looking back on his career. When chatting about his career highlights, he describes the joys of working in a profession that has allowed him to travel, meet incredible people and follow his passions.
‘Doing the Millennium in a place like the Ritz,’ he says, ‘it was just fireworks, from start to finish. It was fantastic.’
And, from London to Sussex, he has continued to progress as a chef, describing his culinary career as a ‘journey’.
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‘I don’t think my journey’s over yet,’ Giles says. ‘I think there’s many more things to do.’
For more information about West Dean College and the Chilli Fiesta, visit their website here.