In March last year, we were advertising for a Chef de Partie. We received an email from a young chef called Bega; he’d seen an advert online and was taking a chance on a dream. He offered to come and work for free – such was his hunger for this job. His CV wasn’t quite what we’d usually look for, but the tone of his message convinced us to invite him in for a chat.
When we met Bega Bogdan from Romania, we were immediately drawn in by his passion, his humility and his incredible desire to learn and grow. He was bright, he clearly had the intelligence to learn; a great character. We took a punt, offered him a job as a commis, and immediately named him Boggy.
Boggy grew up in the small city of Baia de Aries, Romania. The son of an electrician, he loved to spend his days watching his mum (‘a brilliant cook’) in the kitchen; playing football and exploring the forests and open spaces near his home. A dislocated knee put paid to his footballing career and he replaced it with more cooking and DJ-ing at parties.
Aged 19, he moved to Cluj and started working in a pizza restaurant – crazy hours and terrible pay, not quite the culinary career he was looking for; his interest in fine dining ever growing. A call from a cousin in England with an invitation to come and visit was pounced upon and he told a heartbroken Mum that he was leaving the following week.
Bega arrived in Leeds, with barely any English, on a typical British rainy day and had a momentary wobble. After a week of rain he wanted to go home. But, in what we now know to be true Bega style, he persisted and promised himself he’d stay for a year. After 9 months in Leeds, he joined his sister in Milton Keynes where he re-learnt English without a Yorkshire accent and took a job as a commis chef at Aqua. Within a year, he was Junior Sous and that’s when he saw the advert for Paris House; his fine dining dream seemingly now in reach.
His trial shift was a success. He cooked Phil halibut, with cauliflower purée and parsley oil. Bega remembers it as ‘not very adventurous or showing much flair’, Phil remembers it as ‘a solid dish that showed he could cook, albeit not in the Paris House style.’ He started the following week (and no, we didn’t make him work for free).
Without any classical training, the larder section nearly broke him – after 6 months of ridiculously hard graft, Bega finally conquered his achilles heel – organisation. He learnt to organise his section and his week so that prep days became hard and services became fun. Now he’s nailed the larder section and the fish section and is about to move on to pastry. His progression has been immense, he demonstrates professionalism and ability and his confidence grows daily. One of his own dish designs has just made it on to a menu – his Asparagus dish: Asparagus Mousse, Girolles & Barley Vinaigrette features on our June Showcase Great British Menu and he couldn’t be more thrilled.
Bega Bogdan’s Best Bits:
Best dish from back home: Sarmale – soured cabbage stuffed with pork mince, layered with smoked ribs and slow cooked for 7 hours in a clay pot. Served with polenta and sour cream
Bega’s Dream: Push Push Push! Learn as much as I can and then find a place with fields & forests, near a river or lake with birds singing and open my own restaurant serving amazing food with Romanian influence
Bega’s biggest kitchen lesson: Organisation is the most important thing in the kitchen
Boggy’s proverb to live by: Every day’s a school day
Paris House best bit: the location is amazing, but the team is the most supportive I’ve ever worked with, like a 2nd family
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