Keble Blog

Freddy Catering Chef

Keble People: Meet Sarfraz Hussain, our Executive Head Chef

Freddy has been working as Executive Head Chef at Keble for 6 years and his passion for cooking is unrivalled. Freddy and his dedicated team are an integral part of Keble operations, providing the catering for Keble’s internal and external events from conferences, meetings and exhibitions to Gala Dinners, banquets and weddings.

Working with our Conference and Events team, Freddy compiles event checklists, plans tailored menus, oversees and trains his team, runs tastings, manages the culinary budget, prepares dishes and masterminds some of the most creative cuisine guests have ever seen.

Q1: What inspired you to become a Chef?

Growing up, my father was a Head Chef who worked for several Presidents and Prime Ministers, so it was already in our family. I also had a large family and enjoyed cooking for them with my mother. When I came to the UK in 1996, I started as a Kitchen Porter where I saw how the Chefs prepared dishes and created menus. It was something I was really interested in so from there I became a Larder Chef, before working my way up to Chef de Partie at various hotels and restaurants. Eventually, with the support of a fantastic mentor along the way, I was lucky enough to become Executive Head Chef at Keble College. For me, it’s not just about passion, it’s love. I’ve always had a love of food and cooking. It’s what I’ve always done, and I think it’s what I’ll always do.

Q2: What activities do you complete in a typical day?

I arrive in the morning and liaise with the Senior Chef to make a plan for the day. Together, we make a plan for the morning and evening shifts, before explaining the activities to the Junior Chefs. I then work with my Senior Chef to start preparing for any external dinners or internal events. This includes breaking down the menu, allocating ingredients, purchasing items, showing my Chefs how to create the dishes and supporting them as they prepare each course. After that, I will go to my office to create the daily checklist of dishes and allergens, as well as task lists for each event. At the end of the day, we host fine dining events, so I will help my Chefs to cook the dishes and show them how to present each course.

Q3: What is your favourite dish to create?

The dish that will always stay with me is my Lobster tail starter. It’s a fun, yet challenging dish to create and comes with foam and a pickle wedge that makes for a delicious way to get the evening started. 

Q4: What is your philosophy behind menu creation?

All of our menus are tailor-made using fresh, locally sourced ingredients inspired by the seasons. In the 90s, it was all about hearty, proper food. People would eat from the stomach, but now things have changed. People are eating with their eyes and their nose which means our plates not only have to taste exquisite, they need to be aesthetically pleasing and unique. Whenever we design dishes, we put a surprise element on the plate to really wow our customers and make sure they remember us. I recently designed a fine dining menu where I created a unique take on Tandoori Chicken to put our own stamp on it. I played with the ingredients to make the plate appealing, creating a Tandoori Chicken lollipop! It’s also important to remember that the menu must always be balanced. For example, if you’re doing a fish starter, it needs to be balanced with your main course and should not overtake the flavours of later courses. It’s all about how you work with the palate to create a balanced meal from start to finish where each dish complements each other.

Q5: How do you prepare for events at Keble?

Firstly, I work with the Conference and Events Manager to understand what type of event we are hosting such as private dining, weddings or banquets. From here, depending on the theme, I will start planning an individual menu for the event which I share with the Conference team and the customer. Once it’s been confirmed, I make a function sheet for the kitchen which includes all ingredients and an allergen sheet. Then we hold tastings for the event planner or hosts to showcase the full menu and receive feedback. From here, we order fresh ingredients and a day before the event, our Senior Chefs  start prepping each course. One Chef will be in charge of the starter, one the main and one for the desert. I oversee each of these elements in the prep, as well as on the day where I support each of my Chefs to ensure that all dishes are cooked to perfection before leaving our kitchen.

Q6: What was your most satisfying event?

We recently hosted the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs 62nd Grand Chapitre Gala Dinner. This is the International Association of Gastronomy and there were Chefs attending from all over the world! We created an ambitious five course menu, but the team put in a lot of effort and we were very happy with the results. At the end of the event, they awarded us with their Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ Excellent Award. It was very satisfying because it was a great opportunity for us to have our food tasted by different Chefs and we so excited to win the award.

Q7: What was your most memorable event?

My favourite event is the feast. It’s a special event for Alumni of Keble College, previous students and people that have donated to the College. It’s a big event with up to 250 people, held in our iconic Dining Hall, so it’s a great opportunity for myself and my team to show off our creativity and skills. For the last feast, I really pushed my team and created a challenging menu. We did a seasonal take on Beef Wellington which is quite tricky to keep pink and moist, plus a Soufflé for desert. We put so much effort and care into each course. The guests were so happy with the food and it was great to get such good compliments from everyone.

Q8: What makes your catering service different?

I love my team’s passion, commitment and work ethic. We ae a new team with a lot of enthusiasm. They all started their careers as Chefs in the hospitality industry, so they have lots of experience from hotels and restaurants. They each bring something different to the table, providing excellent service and meticulous precision to their dishes. Their passion shows from the first plate to the last plate.

Q9: What is your favourite thing about working at Keble?

I love the fact that working here allows me to have immediate feedback. In other industries, you make the food and send it away, but here I can get face-to-face feedback and see how much people enjoy our hard work. I’ve been working in this industry for 27 years now and feeling appreciated and recognised is so important. I’m very grateful that I work in a place that acknowledges us and the effort we make.

To discover more about catering at Keble College click here or contact the Conference and Events Team here to discuss our unique event opportunities.

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