Sah and Ahmed, our Sous Chefs at Bellanger
Born and raised in London, Sah and Ahmed’s parents moved to London from Turkey more than 20 years ago, where they established their own hospitality business. Growing up, both brothers regularly helped out in the restaurant, learning tricks of the trade from their parents – from polishing cutlery to waiting tables, helping out in the kitchen and much more. Read on to find out a little more about how they ended up as chefs together at Bellanger, and what makes them tick…
Tell us a little about yourselves - did you both always know you wanted to be a chef?
Ahmed (pictured left): For me, no. I'd been pursuing a career in tennis for most of my life and had just got a place at a tennis school in Spain, but then Covid hit and it disrupted everything, so I decided to come home. Our parents have always had a restaurant, so I ended up helping out front of house… I never thought I'd be a chef!
Sah (pictured right): So like Ahmed said, our
parents have always ran restaurants. We were both born in London,
but our parents are Turkish. Now they have a restaurant in
Yorkshire and I also ended up back there during Covid to support
out parents, working front of house too. I had been planning on
going travelling, but that didn't happen due to Covid… and after a
referral from a friend who worked at The Wolseley, I got a job at
Bellanger as senior waiter. So I also hadn't planned on being a
chef, but I couldn't imagine doing anything else now.
And what's it like being brothers in the kitchen together?
Sah: Working together at our parents' restaurant during the pandemic made us realise this is something we could do, so we decided to take it seriously and apply the work ethic we'd been taught growing up. For us, it's really important to have ground rules to maintain a healthy relationship, so when we get here we're just two chefs who work together - and we don't take things home with us. Ultimately we support each other to develop our skills and focus on delivering the best food and service we can for our customers.
Ahmed: I definitely bring some of the habits I've cultivated from my tennis practice into the kitchen. It's important to me to stay focussed, work with discipline and good intent, and like in a match if you lose a point you let it go and move forward. I think I'm slightly more competitive than my brother, but we do compete with each other too; I think this helps us deliver results, improve our skills and create better dishes.
We hear you've spent some time training with Regis (Group Executive Pastry Chef, based at The Delaunay) - and with other industry specialists. What have you gained from these experiences?
Sah: We're super grateful to chef Mauro as he put us forward for this. I've learnt so much from Regis; he's taught us more than just technical pastry skills, but also incredible values which we try and live up to each day. From not being wasteful, to achieving consistent standards. He's a great leader, very pragmatic, treats everyone as equals and his actions match his words.
Ahmed: He's definitely taught us a lot of life lessons - and he's instilled a real sense of confidence! I've also been privileged to go on a butchery site visit to one of our suppliers, Select Meats. And now I'm going once a week to learn butchery on my days off, as I think it's important to be a well-rounded chef.
Do you have a favourite dish from the Bellanger menu?
Sah: All of it! For me, my favourite thing about our menus here is the seasonality - which has really been driven by Head Chef Mauro since he joined. If I had to choose one I think the crab starter is pretty special. And our weekly specials give us a chance to be creative, play with ingredients and get feedback from customers on our ideas.
Ahmed: I think I'd agree, I like making all of the dishes. I enjoy working with the range of produce we use from our suppliers, creating twists on traditional French dishes and working with the seasons.
What do you think is the best thing about working at Bellanger?
Ahmed: So many good opportunities to develop and grow. The support we get from chef Mauro is incredible, he's really supportive and helps us develop ideas for specials; I'm working towards getting one of my dishes on the menu next!
Sah: It's a really great place to work, which I think comes from the very top - the directors lead by example. Also we have a very multicultural and diverse group of people here, which helps create a positive working environment.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to work in the kitchen?
Sah: Try and see all the challenges as opportunities. Set clear goals for yourself and adapt your mind set, which is the approach I try and take to life - aim to thrive, not just survive!
Ahmed: Definitely your state of mind is really important; it's only tough if you think it is.
And finally, when you're not at Bellanger where can we find you?
Ahmed: For me, it's really important to stay fit and healthy - we play squash together sometimes too!
Sah: I also enjoy keeping fit too, but my primary focus at the moment is on learning as much as possible. We're both doing the Chef de Partie apprenticeship, so I'm also doing one day a week at St. John currently. I really love their philosophy and nose-to-tail approach.