Kleo Tabaku

Food has always been my passion and I thank my Mother and Father for this as we have always been a family who connect together through cooking, eating and nature. As a child I grew up in Albania and from a very young age I started to learn all about growing my own fruit and veg; my father taught me all about food sustainability and how to utilise natural resources to plant and produce food for our family to enjoy all year round. I will always remember my father showing me how to make plant pots out of paper as he didn’t like to use plastic. He was always looking for ways to protect the environment and the produce we grew and this I carry in my heart, I feel blessed to have his way of thinking ingrained in me and I love how his passion for food and nature has been passed on to me. I also remember my mother teaching me how to bake bread around the age of 9. The smell of fresh bread takes me straight back to my childhood and I always remember her cooking dishes, using our home grown produce for our whole family to enjoy.  

With a professional career spanning 22 years, I have had the opportunity to work in a range of establishments from authentic Italian restaurants in my early career, through to 3 Rosette standard fine dining. My current role as Head Chef here at Wynyard Hall makes me realise how fortunate I am to work within such stunning grounds – the gardens, the beautiful hall and the history surrounding it serve as a great background for me to do the best I can in a job I love. I started my role here in September 2018 as a senior sous chef. This job brought about new challenges and lots of opportunities to learn new skills. I have always been able to demonstrate my artistic flair and skills set here in the kitchens at Wynyard Hall – I have also had the opportunity to share my skills and enthusiasm with novice cooks; leading a number cookery classes whilst working at Wynyard Hall. Recently my role here at Wynyard Hall has changed and I am now the head chef at the Glasshouse restaurant. This opportunity came about post lockdown whereby I was offered the role after demonstrating my talents in the kitchen – It was humbling to know that they wanted me to front their new restaurant and gave me this opportunity – I am now able to showcase new menus which have been created by myself and inspired by the produce we grow in our gardens.     

My key skills are: 

As a chef I need to be incredibly organised and ahead of the game. I need to plan in advance and think carefully about the produce we will have available to use at different times of the year. I am a forward thinking, proactive person and strive for perfection. I look to motivate my team to think this way too and I am always eager to create a supportive, hardworking environment by being approachable and friendly. I take great pride in being professional and always aim to create and maintain high standards therefore being conscientious is a key to my role as head chef. The kitchen and restaurant environment is fast paced therefore I need to be time efficient to ensure everything works collaboratively.  

Day to day I: 

I always start my morning walking through the garden, it helps me prepare for the day ahead and allows me to visualise the produce we have. I then have a daily briefing with my team about our produce, what we can use that day/week and any issues we may need to deal with that day. We take a look at our reservations and then we start prepping and planning for service.  

I love my job because: 

Behind the scenes, I love the camaraderie of the kitchen – the fast pace can be difficult at times and when service is in play, we must be serious and professional therefore being able to laugh with my team is important. I really enjoy sharing my skills and experience to help build the confidence within my team. I love to see them share my enthusiasm and develop a sense of pride within their work.  I also love the opportunities Wynyard Hall gives me – there are lots of different roles here and career progression is available to those who want to take a step up or try something new. Most importantly I love the work/life balance I am given here – it’s rare to find this in the hospitality industry but Wynyard Hall makes this happen.  

In my spare time: 

In my spare time I like to be active. If I’m not running you will probably find me cycling, hiking or walking with my family. We love to forage depending on the season and then we cook together and enjoy good food – a good glass of wine to accompany this helps me to wind down after a busy week. I am always outdoors exploring nature and what it has to offer. Coastal walks and National Trust parks are where we spend most of our family time – fresh air helps me to relax and re-charge ready for a busy working week.

My future goals are: 

I am keen to learn about new food and flavours so I love to read and explore the talents of other chefs across the world. I am excited to see what opportunities the Glasshouse will bring; my determination and drive will lead to a future of great possibilities I am sure.