Pip Lacey - Head Chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Murano and Great British Menu wonder
Why is it that when we think of cheffing, images of men in white uniforms and big hats rush to our minds, often in stainless steel kitchens and shouting to be heard above broiling pots and deep oil fryers? Often doing so with cursive language if Gordon Ramsey has anything to do with it. Although the act of cooking is seen as something intrinsically feminine, pursuing a career is seemingly reserved for the boys. But one woman changing that narrative for the better is Philippa Lacey, who, having worked under Angela Hartnett as well gracing our screens on the Great British Menu, is showing everyone that girls can take on the boys and chef up a storm.
“I think men tend to find themselves in the job more because it’s a very physical profession.” Phillipa, known as Pip tells me during our conversation about food, careers and of course, lingerie. “Girls can definitely do it too, but it’s long hours of intense physical work, and naturally men tend to be stronger in that sense. I decided not to let it bother me, even though at the beginning I would wake up with my hands in permanent fists after strenuous shifts the night before.” During our conversation, Pip makes it clear that none of these physical tests made her want to stop cheffing, in fact, it was because of pure charm and a disbelief in her abilities that she made her mark in the first place.
At 27 years old and nearing the end of a graphic design career that she had fallen out of love with, it was a naive suggestion from a friend that prompted her to pursue what had previously just been a passion for food. “I was definitely naive going into it” Pip tells me, laughing, “They told me to apply to jobs with the top chefs like Gordon Ramsay and I just thought, yeah I will!” But her job under Angela in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant came as a bit of a shock. “I got rejected from a lot of places because of course, I had no professional cheffing experience or qualifications, but I had to call that last one because I had filled out something wrong on my application and I told them I could do the job despite this. They laughed, but they told me to go buy some knives and some whites and they gave me a shot. I’ve been cheffing ever since.”
Although Pip’s break into professional kitchens was somewhat of a fluke, Pip thinks giving more people with a passion for food a chance would perhaps go some way to help fix the ongoing shortage of chefs. “It’s long, intense hours for not a lot of money; to really enjoy it you’ve got to love food and love what you do,” she tells me, “a lot of the time you get a load of young kids who go into cheffing because they don’t have any qualifications, and whilst some of them will enjoy it a lot of them will wind up hating it.” Pip's advice would be to take some time out before joining the industry, something she believes really helped her grow and succeed as a chef.
Moving our conversation on, we started talking about the reason Pip decided to subject herself to the stress of professional kitchens: the food. “My favourite things to cook are the same as my favourite things to eat!” she laughs, recounting some of her favourite menu ideas, “I love cooking scallops, and definitely squid, I love squid! I quite like experimenting with fish and meat when i’m in the professional kitchen because my wife is a vegetarian, so everything at home is veggie.” Although, she’s not adverse to a little bit of fast food every now and then “McDonalds and KFC are my guilty pleasure, it doesn’t matter that I’m a chef sometimes you just really want something bad!”
Working on the Great British Menu also gave her a lot of freedom when it came to creating a menu. “I got to work with a load of ingredients I would never normally use and make things you wouldn’t normally make, it’s wicked because you meet other chefs and you’ve all got something in common so you get on, and you don’t get to meet that many people when you’re spending 18 hours in one room. It’s hard work and super stressful, but worth it.”
Being a chef can be physically and mentally draining, and spending 18 hours in a sweaty box with a bunch of other sweaty humans doesn’t always make you feel incredibly sexy, but Pip says she manages this by separating her work life and her home life, especially in terms of her appearance. “I don’t dress up for work, it’s the kind of job that takes over your whole life so when I’m not in the kitchen I like to put on make up and make an effort. I’ve walked into the kitchen before on my day off and they’ve not recognised me!” On the lingerie front however, Pip says that her nicest bras are actually the most comfortable. “Bra-wise I’ve gotten rid of my sporty styles and I wear my nice bras because I feel more comfortable in them.”
So when we asked her to pick out her favourite Bluebella styles, this is what she told us...
Claudia Shirt and Trouser Set (Cream) for after work style - 'It's often very late when I get home, so some lovely PJs and bed are very welcome'
Peyton Bra and Brief for everyday lingerie - 'I used to only wear sporty styles at work but now I mix it up with my beautiful lingerie'
Angelina Body or Bra and Brief for sports luxe - 'I've always liked sports style - the Wimbledon-themed Great British Menu was perfect for me!'
Caterina Bra and Brief for comfort and style - 'I need to be comfortable but it's nice to have great detailing too'
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