Melissa Menns is the Head Chef at Birmingham Hippodrome. Her varied role involves managing a multitude of culinary events at the theatre, whether in residence in our Circle Restaurant or catering for a gala dinner in our Patrick Centre studio.
How long have you worked at the Hippodrome?
I started working here last March, so just over a year now, but I began working as a Sous Chef and I was promoted this year to Head Chef.
Describe your job?
One of my main responsibility is to create the menus. I make sure I ask for input from the other chefs as I like them to be involved too so they don’t just feel like they’re being told what to do, and they have some ownership over what we are serving. I also do day-to-day management of health and safety, food safety, rotas and managing the team. Obviously cooking is a major part of it too and is what I love. It can be very fast-paced, and demanding in a good way, ultimately it’s a very rewarding job and I get to work with some very nice people. I really enjoy working here, it’s very different to places I’ve worked before as I used to do a lot of hotel-based work and Birmingham Hippodrome has a warm, welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
Describe a typical working day?
I normally start between around 9am and 10am, I come in and do my restaurant booking checks and make sure we’re organised for any hospitality functions that are on. I then double check to make sure no timings have changed or if any booking numbers have gone up or down. Afterwards, I do my health and safety checks to ensure the fridges are at the right temperature, the stoves are working and make sure everything is in working order for the day ahead. I then brief the chefs on what is happening for the day and begin basic preparation before starting service. Most of my job now is mainly administrative based so I am in lots of meetings to go through the different areas of catering that is required for things like gala dinners, press nights and events.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Definitely cooking, and knowing that everyone has enjoyed their food. I love being creative and being able to express myself through my food, I really like to mix things up and bring a modern twist to traditional meals.
What are you most proud of achieving here?
Probably the very difficult transition as I went from Sous Chef to Head Chef. Then definitely dealing with The Red Shoes week, I had to step up as the team wasn’t at full capacity at the time and we had two galas and quite a few dinners. It was basically me, and a lot of people asking me a lot of questions – I managed to be in hospitality and the restaurant at the same time! Also the Las Iguanas awards, which Birmingham Hippodrome produced. I am very proud to say that was me overseeing it from start to finish, I created the menu, did the presentation and of course the event catering for over 400 people!
What show are you most looking forward to in the coming season?
Now I’ve had my Miss Saigon experience, it has to be The Nutcracker because I just love the ballets and everything about Christmas!