Most people won’t discover their professional destiny while working in the family business. And most summer jobs won’t yield more than some spending money and a foreboding sense of inevitable responsibility. But for Markus Glocker, Austrian-born chef de cuisine of New York’s Gordon Ramsay at The London, the summers working at his uncle’s hotel in Austria were a stepping stone to his future in cooking. No doubt the exception to the rule of meaningless summer jobs, Glocker’s experience in the front- and back-of-house at the hotel helped him discover his affinity for the culinary arts, one that he pursued all the way to culinary school in Linz, Austria.
Already showing the talent and discipline for serious art (he trained in classical music as a young boy) Glocker excelled in the kitchen, finding a new forum for the technique, discipline, harmonies, and contrasts of his musical beginnings. After graduating, Glocker took his skill set to the Restaurant Vier Jahreszeiten in Munich, where he worked as a commis chef. From there, Glocker found his first post under the Gordon Ramsay umbrella at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.
The next several years of his career found Glocker leap-frogging from country to country, going from London back to Germany, where he worked at the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Eckart Witzigmann in Berlin. From there, Glocker went all the way to Chicago to work in the kitchen of Charlie Trotter’s for two years before returning to Austria to work at the two Michelin-starred Restaurant Steirereck Vienna. With an seriously cosmopolitan résumé, and having worked under enough Michelin stars to form a sizeable constellation, Glocker finally returned to the states, and back to the Gordon Ramsay group, where he brings sophistication and a melodic imagination to the menu as chef de cuisine at Gordon Ramsay at The London.
Interview with Hotel Chef Markus Glocker of Gordon Ramsay at The London – New York, NY
Emily Bell: What inspired you to start cooking professionally?
Markus Glocker: My family has hotels at home. I started working in the hotel business at the age of 10. Then I wanted to branch out, leave Austria and see what's out there. I cooked for Charlie Trotter. I was sous chef for two years for Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.
EB: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
MG: I went to hospitality and culinary school for four years, learning front of house and back of house. I'm fine with both as long as they have an attitude to move forward and a good work ethic.
EB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
MG: Grow a thick skin. Listen to everything but don't take everything too hard. Take the good with the bad.
EB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
MG: It's all about flavor. I'm about simple, but perfect, rather than too much on the plate where you can't really control it anymore. I love to use classic flavors with new techniques, but I’m definitely sticking to the roots.
EB: What goes into creating a dish?
MG: It starts with a purveyor bringing me the ingredients of the new season. Then I brainstorm with chefs, we come up with different ideas and plate it up a couple times and we taste it. I'm not a guy who's just about himself. It’s about the dish. I love to have different opinions, different ideas to bring in. It makes the team in the kitchen really tight as well. It takes two or three days to put a dish on [the menu]; we never put it on just from scratch. I change [the menu] dish by dish, and work in a new dish in a week, and stay on top of the seasons.
EB: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant, especially in a hotel?
MG: The biggest challenge is being in a hotel with different outlets. We cover the whole food and beverage program [for the hotel]. We have a separate restaurant team, but still work in the kitchen and I oversee other menus as well.
EB: What is it like working with Pastry Chef Ron Paprocki with all of these outlets?
MG: It's very rare to find a pastry chef who is creating desserts that pair so perfectly with the whole philosophy of the menu. Ron does not just see pastry, he sees the whole picture. It makes the menu cohesive in the transition from savory to desserts.
EB: If you had one thing you could do again, what would it be?
MG: I think I would do the same things all over again. I made pretty good steps. I would definitely move to France. I like the chefs there. Pierre Gagnaire is one of my favorite chefs. I dropped that opportunity to work for Charlie Trotter.
EB: What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
MG: Working for many years in fine dining restaurants and seeing how chefs like Gordon Ramsay or Charlie Trotter organize and lead their kitchens. Being able to be a part of that is a big accomplishment already. Being able to move on and create my own standards and rules and have a team behind me like [pastry chef] Ron [Paprocki] and executive sous chef Tyler Shedden is my greatest accomplishment so far.
EB: What does success mean for you?
MG: Success for me is when the customer's happy—if the guest is happy and loves the food.
EB: What’s next for you? Where will we find you in five years?
MG: Hopefully starting up my own restaurant.