Seven ages of a chef: Joyce Molyneux

‘I would definitely recommend it as a good profession for women,’ says the former head chef at the Carved Angel, 83

A life lived through the kitchen is something I would thoroughly recommend. I’ve been very lucky in that regard. I’ve had a very good life. Many things have changed, of course. I started in the Mulberry Tree in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1950s and when I arrived there, it still had a coal-fired range though that went shortly afterwards and we were then on gas. The restaurant was a spin-off from a wine merchants and was only small, about 30 covers. I was the only woman there but that wasn’t an issue. I was just a pair of hands and a pretty raw pair of hands at that. The chef was a chap called Douglas Sutherland who had trained prewar and wore a big white hat. He was the only real professional in there.

These were still the days of rationing so there wasn’t much meat on the menu. The food was essentially the repertoire de la cuisine. We’d boil a fowl in the afternoon and use the stock to make a velouté and then make chicken à la king [in cream sauce] and the flavour in the sauce was mind-blowing. It was a very enjoyable job and there wasn’t much shouting. There wasn’t any need. There is never any need for chefs to be shouty. It’s one of the reasons I find MasterChef so embarrassing. There’s an aggressive attitude there, which I don’t like at all. I do like Great British Bake Off. It’s just rather civilised.

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