HE started his career at Spirit Restaurant in Victoria Park when he was just 15.

Now former Bridgewater High School student Connor Slater is continuing to achieve remarkable things in the world of fine food after become head chef at Mana in Manchester at just 23.

Mana is the city’s first Michelin Star restaurant since 1977.

The multiple course dining experience was launched by Simon Martin in October 2018 and Connor has been there since day one – starting out as a commis chef before quickly rising through the ranks ‘at an astounding pace’.

Connor, who used to live in Stockton Heath and Appleton, said: “It’s great. It’s a wonderful thing. I can’t believe it really to be honest. I’m just 23 so I know it’s massive.”

Being calm under pressure is one of the key skills needed for his line of work, Connor reckons.

But he also said the perception of shouty, angry Gordon Ramsey-style head chefs is not something you would find in his kitchen.

Connor added: “That sort of kitchen culture is not really a thing anymore. You’re never going to get the best out of someone if you shout at them and be mean so we’re moving away from those times.

“I started being a chef when I was 15 so I’m used to working under pressure.

“Sometimes pressure is that thing that pushes you on to make sure everything is perfect.

“We only do a maximum of 26 covers – or 26 people – per service.

“So it’s not a great deal but at the moment we’re doing a 17 or 18 course menu so it’s quite a lot of plates of food going out of the kitchen.

“But to be honest the atmosphere in the kitchen is quite calm.

“It’s quick. You have to make sure everything is ready at a certain time after another dish has been cleared from the table.

“But everyone has a job. Everyone knows what they need to do.”

Connor leads a team of 12 in the kitchen while there are usually three front of house staff.

He said: “Everyone gets on really well and understands what each other does.

“The menu is split up into four sections with a set of chefs working on each so we all just get on with it. It’s well coordinated and it’s a great team.”

But what makes being a Mana chef to many other restaurants is that the food is made right in front of people.

The kitchen is not tucked away and Connor and his team play an active role in engaging with visitors throughout.

He added: “The chefs take the plates out to the table and explain all the dishes and they clear the tables too alongside the front of house team.

Mana Restaurant

Mana Restaurant

“The whole idea of the restaurant is that the kitchen itself is part of the dining room so people come almost to watch a show.

“There is definitely a theatre aspect to it. There are some dishes, for instance, where we’ll set some pine on fire with a blow torch.

“You see the food being prepared in front of you so we try and bring the experience to life during every service.

“One of my favourite things is interacting with the guests and getting their feedback on what they thought of the food.

“Usually as a chef you’re behind a door where the customers can’t see you. I think it’s a great thing that we’re on show basically.”

Speaking of being on show, Connor described it as both nerve-wracking and exciting maintaining Mana’s Michelin Star. He even likes the idea of going for two stars.

Connor, who attended Moore Primary School, said: “I have to ensure the restaurant is always kept at that standard, if not even better.

“We’re always striving to push forward, develop what we do and get better every day. To be recognised for that hard work with a Michelin Star is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Connor said he comes from a family of food lovers.

He added: “My interest in cooking stemmed from my grandparents as well as my auntie. I used to cook a lot with her. Then when I went to high school I did food technology and catering and that’s where it all came from really.”

Connor’s first opportunity was at Spirit Restaurant in Victoria Park, Latchford. He was given a two-week work experience placement there when he was in year 10 and on the strength of that he was offered a job.

Connor said: “I worked the summer of that year and then worked every Friday and Saturday night while I was in year 11 – all the way through to GCSEs.

“I found my feet quickly but there was definitely a learning curve going from school and cooking at home to a kitchen that serves people and everything has to be perfect.”

The team at Mana added: “Connor has been with us since our very first day in October of 2018. He has risen through the ranks at an astounding pace, to where he now resides and offers tutelage, support and instruction.”

So does Connor’s achievements mean he is always being asked to cook up a storm for friends and family?

“I get little comments and jokes here and there,” he said.

“But I’m from a family of very good cooks so I don’t necessarily have to worry about cooking every evening I’m off work!”