There are so many TV programmes dedicated to seeing the busy life behind the scenes of restaurants such as MasterChef and The Great British Menu. We are fascinated by the daily on-goings of a professional kitchen and the day-to-day life of a chef. These shows sweep us along on the adrenaline fuelled shifts and tasks the individual chefs are put up against and make us feel part of the action.

I wish I could say that all days here are as action packed as the TV shows would have us believe, but in reality a day behind the scenes at our boutique inn is much less adrenaline fuelled and more focussed on comradery, passion and consistency.

The Old Stocks Inn is an independent 16 bedroom boutique inn, nestled in the heart of bustling Stow on the Wold. We have a gorgeous 32-seater restaurant that was awarded 2 AA Rosettes in 2018 and has held onto that accolade ever since. It’s no mean feat delivering the level of cookery that this award requires. Our brigade (group of chefs) works very hard to ensure all our menus are made of the best the season has to offer, as well as showcasing modern, British cookery with a fun and surprising edge. 

The Old Stocks Inn

One of the cornerstones of our company ethos is curiosity and our Head Chef, John Broughton, works hard to ensure his menus challenge our guests’ natural curiosity to try something new and have the best possible dining experience that they’ll remember for years to come.

Head Chef, John Broughton

A lot of that comes from working with some of the best suppliers that the local area has to offer. 

Local eggs, meat, dairy, and cheese all play a large part in how our menu tastes and enhances a true Cotswold experience. On our a la carte menu you’ll find dishes such as West End Farm pork with sage and onion, black pudding, cider reduction and a pork and apple sauce and Stokes Marsh Farm beef & braised cheek with carrot, cavolo nero and Bordelaise sauce. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s salted caramel crème brûlée with Braeburn apple and Calvados ice cream and a Valrhona Guanaja 70% chocolate fondant with clementine sorbet.

The Old Stocks Inn

A typical day here in our kitchen starts with breakfast from 8am where we look after our 16 bedrooms and make sure our guests start their day right. One team member arrives at 7am and will deliver this alongside their kitchen assistant (who are undoubtedly the backbone of any professional kitchen)
Mornings are all about multi-tasking; cooking, prepping for the a la carte menu, getting stocks ready, accepting deliveries, and completing kitchen due diligence. It takes an experienced chef to deliver all of this alongside a busy breakfast. We operate breakfast seven days a week, so this shift is often shared across the duties of all the brigade. Of course, some of the team are more natural ‘early birds’ than others!

The day of the week determines how the rest of the day looks. 

One of the main reasons we can deliver a great standard with our food using a small brigade of just five chefs is that we deliver lunch services on Saturdays and Sundays only. This gives our team great balance and allows for menu development, on-going training and consistency of prep work and product. All our chefs comment on the great work/life balance they achieve working with us. It’s so important to keep our chefs looked after so that their enthusiasm and passion can show through their food. This structure of services has eliminated the need for regular ‘split shifts’ which are synonymous with kitchen life of old and very detrimental to a chef’s home life and down time. All our brigade enjoy straight shifts which give them a normal working day that is never longer than 10 hours.

This sentiment is shared throughout the inn by the whole team. In 2022, The Old Stocks Inn was placed in the Top 5 Hospitality employers in the UK by The Caterer. As a small, independent business it meant so much to have our ethos acknowledged on a national scale. 

Sunday lunches are very popular here at The Old Stocks Inn and we have gained a real following from locals and repeat guests alike. Alongside breakfast, the team prep up Yorkshire puddings, fluffy roast potatoes, and check the joints of meat that have been roasting low and slow overnight from Saturday. It’s a service that really stands alone and has its own unique menu compared to the regular a la carte. Our brigade really enjoy the bustle of a Sunday lunch, it’s a treat to deliver a busy lunch service on the weekends after not having them throughout the week.

The Old Stocks Inn

Afternoons in the kitchen are called ‘mids’. This is just as busy a time for the brigade as there’s mise en place lists for all sections to complete. Larder (for starters and desserts), butchery and portioning of meat and fish ready for service, sauces and stocks to ready, as well as kitchen management. It can take days sometimes for stocks and sauces to be ready! There’s the old saying ‘fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.’ That said, it’s a fun and relaxed time for the team. Music plays, there’s chatting and joking alongside work. Building comradery in those times is important so that when service comes, the team work in harmony and support each other. The ‘mids’ are really important for team building. 

5pm soon rolls around and its time to give our front of house and back of house teams a lovely bite to eat. The kitchen always lovingly prepares a staff meal for breakfast and dinner, so everyone is well fed and watered throughout their shifts. Everything from ‘one pot wonders’ to big kid dinners that make the team smile. 

The Old Stocks Inn

6pm and dinner service begins. Dinner service runs seven days a week, so is the main bread and butter of our business. Just before service begins, the booking lists are evaluated so the team know how many covers they have, which are the busiest timeslots, any dietary requirements or allergies there are for guests, specials are communicated to front of house, as well as any slight menu variations. Communication between front of house and back of house before, during and after shift is vital. 
Once service starts, each chef is given a section. One chef for larder, which is starters, another for pastry, which is desserts. Then depending on how busy the night is, there’s usually another chef for grill & sauce and another for the pass. This chef is responsible for calling checks, making sure all meal components are brought together at the same time and then the plating of the dishes to the exacting standards of the Head Chef. 

A typical evening sees us doing around 30-40 covers, as well as looking after guests in our private dining room too. This seats up to 14 people and is used for celebrations and special occasions. There’s a real art to balancing larger groups’ meals amongst smaller tables. Front of house management also needs to be coordinated well to ensure there’s no significant delays to diners in the main restaurant whilst the larger groups food is being sent out. It’s all a delicate balancing act and the adrenaline rush of shift is the thing that once you’re in hospitality, you can never emulate in any other career or industry. It’s so unique and the friendships you make working alongside each other in these busy shifts and helping each other are often for life. 

Private dining room at The Old Stocks Inn

Our kitchen closes at 9.30pm each evening and this is the time for the team to begin packing away, cleaning down and getting reset for the following day. The next days mis en place lists are written, orders are placed with suppliers, stock levels for breakfast are checked, due diligence documentation completed. You always have to think ahead in a kitchen and be a couple of days ahead in your mind to ensure you are always prepared. 
Then its home time; time for the team to put their feet up and relax after a busy day. 

It's safe to say that no two days are ever the same in our kitchen. That’s what makes the job so much fun and so unpredictable. It takes a certain type of person to go into hospitality and into kitchen brigades and I think it’s this fascination that drives the TV programmes about chef life and the creativity and dramas of a kitchen. We love to see people with such passion for what they do and the creativity they bring to their industry. We are lucky to work alongside that in our kitchen every day.

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Written by Charlotte Tuck – Business and Brand Manager at The Old Stocks Inn

The Old Stocks Inn




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