Skip to main content
Search Results

Zac Colburn explains best thing about being a House of Commons commis chef

23rd Apr 2024 - 06:00
House of Commons commis chef Zac Colburn
During an exclusive interview with reporter Edward Waddell, Zac Colburn explains what inspired him to become a chef, the best thing about being a commis chef at the House of Commons and he shares his ambitions for the future.

An exciting opportunity has arisen for an experienced, talented and enthusiastic commis chef to be a key part of the professional catering services team at the House of Commons. Zac also shares what advice he would give to the new commis chef coming into the job. The closing dates for applications is Sunday 19th May 2024.

What made you want to become a chef in the first place?

I grew up cooking with my dad and love creating new dishes. Learning how to and being able to cook for yourself was very important in my family, so my dad would encourage me to cook but also made sure I enjoyed it.

Did you attend catering college? If so, what was it like?

I attended Westminster Kingsway College and completed the Professional Chef Diploma. Studying there was one of my greatest experiences to date. There was so much support and knowledge gained. We were pushed to be the best chefs we could be, whether that was in class or by being put forward for competitions.

Was there a chef that really inspired you when you first started out as a chef?

He’s not a professional chef but learning to cook with my dad helped set me up for a successful career. He’s a great cook and loves being in the kitchen.

One chef that inspires me is Gordon Ramsay. He came from a difficult family background but despite this, worked hard get to where he is today and become one of the world’s leading chefs.

What is the best thing about being a commis chef at the House of Commons?

The best thing about working at the House of Commons is the support from your colleagues and superiors. My executive chef, head chef and sous chef ensure that what you learn at college stays with you, and this has helped massively with my confidence and development.

You also get a broad range of experiences because of the different catering outlets in Parliament that you can work in, from our very own butchery and fishmonger department to our legendry pastry kitchen. I currently work in the Commons dining rooms which is like a traditional though modern style restaurant offering a great selection of dishes. It’s very fast-paced, but there are also staff restaurants that serve thousands of staff and visitors every day which are a different type of busy to the fine dining rooms.

What’s more, there is also the chance to play a role in the wider hospitality industry and take part in national and international competitions through chefs’ organisations, such as the Craft Guild of Chefs and the British Culinary Federation who support young chefs immensely throughout their careers.

I recently participated in the London International Salon Culinaire where I won a gold medal for Butchery in the Chicken Class, preparing a chicken for sauté. My colleague Ashley and I also won a Bronze Medal in the joint Mystery Basket Grand Prix, where we had to make a dish out of ingredients provided to us in a basket only a few hours before the competition.

What advice would you give to the new commis chef coming into the job? 

Have an open mind to the tasks you are assigned and any constructive criticism you get. When you start you might be doing the same thing repeatedly, like prepping vegetables, but it will help with your muscle memory when you’re assigned new dishes to make. Work hard and it will pay off! I would also say to write down everything you can, be it new recipes or tips and tricks, and feedback you receive and grab every opportunity you can!

How many people does the House of Commons catering team prepare food for every day?

We cater for 14,000 passholders per day that use our facilities and around 150–200  in our seated restaurants. We also have kitchens that prepare food for the many events hosted in the Commons. Depending on how small or big they are, this could be for 20-2,000 people per day.

Who is the most famous/well known person you have helped cook for?

In my current role, I’ve cooked for both the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the Prime Minister. Outside of this, I’ve had the pleasure of cooking for Judy Joo, who did a Korean cook-along at my college, and have also cooked for Michel Roux and Pierre Koffman.

What is your favourite dish on the menu?

We have a new menu coming out shortly, and one of my favourite dishes on there is a double-baked goats’ cheese souffle. I also enjoy cooking meat so lamb rump is another favourite, and I also enjoy making a potato galettes.

As a chef what ambitions do you still have for the future?

I would love to travel to America and Asia to study their cuisines and work in a restaurant abroad. My ultimate dream would be to open my own restaurant one day.

If you are interested in applying for the commis chef position at the House of Commons, visit here

Written by
Edward Waddell