Mehdi started his apprenticeship when he was 15 years old in Marseille, France where he was born. He was working in a very small restaurant but wanted to go and learn about fine dining so moved to a restaurant called L’Abbaye De Sainte Croix in Salon de Provence. This is where he truly learned everything about what it was like to be a chef. It set the foundation and gave him a basis of how to do things right, so this place always felt like home.
After a while, Mehdi wanted to see something different, so he went to Alsace to learn another way of cooking and expand his knowledge. Two years later he came to England and started working at Cliveden House Hotel. He met some great people there and it enabled him to get to know more about English cooking. After an 18-month stint, he worked in various London restaurants before going back to France to work at the Jiva Hill Relais & Chateaux near Geneva. This was one of the greatest places he had the chance to work in. His next move was to Switzerland, but he always had this idea of coming back to England. Mehdi was waiting for the right occasion so when he was given the opportunity to work for Adam Smith at Coworth Park it just felt right. Mehdi was inspired by Adam’s cooking, what he’s achieved in his career and the way he was doing things on a different level.
Mehdi loves being a chef as the job provides so many different possibilities and opportunities. He told us: “You are never bored, you’re always doing something new, always pushing yourself to do better and every day is different from the day before. That is what makes it so interesting.”
Even as a child, Mehdi knew he wanted to be a chef as he came from a family with great home cooks. All the women in his family cooked a lot, especially his mum and grandmother. They would always have a big family dinner on Sunday where everyone would help cooking. It’s always been a big part of his life.
Mehdi says everywhere he has worked so far has taught him something and made him the chef he is today; from the first bistro in Marseille where he learned basic cooking skills to Coworth Park today. If there was one chef he had to choose as his main influence, it would be Jéremy Picanol at L’Abbaye de Sainte-Croix who really put him on the right path.
His incentive to enter The National Chef of the Year was to prove to himself that he could still do it commenting: “You always wonder if people are going to like your cooking, you never know how it’s going to go or if what you present is going to be good enough so I thought this was a good opportunity to see where I was standing.”
When he heard his name called out, he admits he was surprised as he never expected it. Even if you are happy with the dishes, it doesn’t mean the judges will like them. He is so grateful to the chefs at Coworth Park who supported him and his fiancé Laetitia.
Winning would mean everything to Mehdi and prove that no matter where you come from or where you’ve worked, you can still achieve whatever you want to do. He believes to succeed as a chef you have to love what you’re doing and have the passion as well as a will to succeed.
The three words Mehdi would use to describe his cooking are eclectic, flavoursome and