Chef Michael Hinds

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Michael Hinds on stove

Taste of London

If there’s one thing Michael Hinds thrives on, it’s a challenge. He has worked in some of the world’s finest Michelin Star restaurants, but he’s yet to find a kitchen that’s too hot to handle.

At 40, this young Barbadian culinary star has already seen and accomplished more than most chefs reaching retirement age. He got a head start as a school boy; while his friends were cramming for exams or out liming with friends, the 14-year-old Michael was looking for something a bit more challenging – and discovered his life’s passion in the kitchen of a local hotel.

By age 17, he was working as a trainee chef at the exclusive Sandy Lane Hotel, and in no time his commitment and his flair in the kitchen were helping him progress quickly up through the ranks. His obvious talent and drive also opened opportunities to refine his craft through formal training at the Culinary Institute of America. Soon he was winning local culinary contests. He was invited to represent Barbados in the prestigious Taste of the Caribbean regional contests, and brought home gold medals four years in a row.

For many, this might have been the time to start resting on laurels, or at least cashing in on them. But Michael needed bigger challenges. He craved new opportunities to take his craft to higher levels. So he sat down and wrote to the world’s top Michelin Star restaurants, seeking opportunities for volunteer training placements in their establishments during the slow summer season. To his surprise, most of the world-renowned chefs actually wrote him back. This led to stints in some of the world’s finest restaurants, such London’s Chez Nico.

“It was a definite culture shock.” Michael says, recounting the experience of 18-hour days, working his fingers to the bone and dealing with temperamental culinary geniuses. (It really is as dramatic as the TV reality shows, he confirms!)

Returning home from this baptism by fire with a “metropolitan” mindset, “I stuck out like a sore thumb,” he recalls. “But it also suddenly seemed so much easier to get things done.”  Forging ahead, he turned down his first offer of an executive chef position at the tender age of 25, choosing to remain in a position with less status but more challenge and more opportunity to develop his technique.

A decade later, it was this continuing quest for new challenges that drove the dynamic young chef to start his own catering company. Furnished with knowledge and experience gathered, Michael has carved out a niche private catering to the most discerning clientele while still offering a bistro style concept and his Cafe on the south coast of the Island.

Ambition may once have been a driving force for the introverted Barbadian youth from Garrison Secondary School – an opportunity to see how far he could get, coming from humble beginnings. But success has changed his perspective. What excites him now is the opportunity to tackle new challenges and to continue refining his craft. “It’s about technical ability,” he said, “because at the end of the day, all that a chef has, really, are his hands.”

“People talk about it as an art. It can be artistic but I see it more as a craft,” he explained. “It’s not something you’re born with – you get better as you put in the time and you build experience.”

And so it is that we can expect much more still to come from this dynamic young Barbadian star.