Andy tells FOUR all about his perfect Sunday Brunch, the moment he received his Michelin star and the upcoming event he’s hosting at Chapter One on Monday 17 March, which will see Kent’s five Michelin chefs coming together to prepare a very special 7-course dinner in an effort to raise money for stem cell research at Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation. Read on for more…
What was it like receiving your Michelin star back in 2001?
It was an amazing feeling. To say all chefs strive for it I don’t think is quite true because I get out a buzz out of cooking in our other restaurant, too, which is more of a brasserie but with amazingly fresh food. But at the time I was young and it was what I was striving for and, importantly, we had a good business as well so it wasn’t like we were crippling ourselves to get a Michelin star. We cook for our customers and develop our business and along the way we got a Michelin star as well which I think is the healthiest way to obtain one.
Aside from your Michelin star, what has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Getting Restaurant of the Year with the AA, 4 AA rosettes and having my children along the way as well!
Tell us a bit about the event coming up on Monday 17 March, which will see Kent’s five Michelin-starred chefs (including you) cook up a storm in the kitchen at Chapter One…
The good thing about the night is that it’s five different chefs who all know each other. Each chef has their own style. Stephen Harris from The Sportsman is very well known for his rustic fish. His restaurant/pub is on the coast and he has some amazing oysters and makes his own seaweed butter. Graham Garrett (The West House) has a nice unique style, too, which is slightly more inland than Stephen’s. Tim Johnson from restaurant Apicius used to be my head chef so it will be interesting cooking with him again. Since he’s left me he’s gone on to get his own restaurant and his own Michelin star. The youngest out of all of us is Daniel Hatton from restaurant Thackeray’s, which is the closest restaurant to Chapter One. So it should be a good evening where we’re bringing all our styles together. Each course should be very different to the next one.
Before you arrived at Chapter One you spent some time in the kitchen at The Ritz in London. How does life as a chef in quiet Kent compare to being in the city?
I think 10-15 years ago, moving outside of London was quite a major move. It was a big move back then and I wasn’t 100% sure if it was the right move but we’re still very close to London. Chapter One is only 12 miles from Victoria so we’re not in the depths of Kent. Some guides say we’re London-based, some guides say we’re Kentish. London has always been seen as the hub of where cuisine is but I think more and more people are leaving central London and starting great restaurants outside of the city. You only have to look at the Michelin guide and see what we have outside of London, outside of the M25. Moving has been good. I like the produce that I can receive at the restaurant from the south coast from around Kent as well that I would struggle to get if I was inside central London. A lot of my game is locally based in Kent, around the Tunbridge Wells, Seven Oaks area. If we’re in central London we’d generally go to a supplier who would get it from elsewhere like the Scottish or Yorkshire borders. So it’s opened up a whole element of suppliers I can use just being on the South London or the North Kent borders.
You spent a year and a half in Asia on the island of Ko Samui working in the kitchens at the illustrious Mandarin Oriental group. Has Asia had a big impact on your culinary style or have you got your influence from elsewhere?
Although Thai cuisine is probably one of my favourite to eat, it hasn’t really influenced my cooking too much. One thing I learned in Asia is that I hated the concept of fusion cooking in the 80’s 90’s. It was a bastardisation of French food and Asian food. One thing I did learn is that I love to keep the classic basis separate to Asian cuisine. Occasionally you’ll see a lighter Asian touch going with a fish dish in my cooking but I think it’s two amazing cuisines that should be kept separate most of the time, with one or two exceptions.
Chef Nico inspired my cooking a lot. I was with him for a long time at Simply Nico and Chez Nico as chef de partie. His philosophy behind food, his determination to extract flavour from food, while not confusing the palette as well. That has stuck with me throughout my career.
Other than that, I love Phil Howard at The Square - I love eating at the restaurant - and Chez Bruce which is part of the same group. They’re two restaurants who have their heads screwed on and cook some amazing food. I don’t like this modern approach that much of these new-fangled restaurants out there have adopted where you struggle to eat any protein on the plate and thankfully they haven’t got into that.
Describe your culinary style in three words?
Classic cooking with a modern approach.
What is your favourite dish on the menu at Chapter One right now?
Right now a popular dish is roast saddle of venison with butternut pureé, shallot tatin with a croquant of venison shoulder.
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I had an amazing meal at Per Se and I’ve never been to The French Laundry so it would probably have to be there.
And finally, what would your ultimate Sunday brunch menu entail?
A seafood platter. And it would have to involve beef of some sort , so maybe sirloin steak. Having family and friends around is very important to me as well. The company is as important as the food! And perhaps a treacle tart for dessert…
For more information and to book a ticket to the Five Kent Chefs event at Chapter One, contact Cheryl Almond via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the restaurant on 01689 854 848. Tickets for the event are priced at £120 per person, which is inclusive of wine paired with each course.