FOURty Seconds with Cat Ashton

28 Mar 2018
3 min read
Using only the best locally sourced produce, Executive Chef of The Abbey in St.Albans, Cat Ashton creates modern interpretations of classic seasonal dishes.

What/Who inspired you to become a chef?

When I was 11 years old, I was watching television back in Australia, and at the time, Jamie Oliver was very popular back then, here in England. Australia was only just catching on and I fell in love. His enthusiasm for food and sourcing produce was captivating.


Can you explain a bit about the concept of the new restaurant at The Abbey, St. Albans?

We are a seasonal, and sustainable, ingredient-led neighborhood restaurant. How we own this concept is we only use seasonal produce, sourcing from sustainable suppliers and using local producers as much as well can to create a quality, welcoming new restaurant for St Albans.


Where did the inspiration for this come from?

One of the main inspirations of launch this concept in St Albans is the restaurants location to the Cathedral. Such a majestic building that we get to see from the kitchen window everyday!


What is your culinary philosophy?

To cook seasonally, cook well & eat happy!


How do you try to translate your philosophy onto the plate?

Mainly through sourcing amazing produce and treating it with the respect it deserves. Showcasing seasonal and sustainable products and operating a no-waste kitchen to create mouth-watering, exciting food


Can you explain to us how the creative journey of your dishes begins?

Firstly, it starts with amazing produce and the seasons. I tend to find just looking at things gets my creative juices flowing. Lucky things that are in season together generally go so fantastic together. Think of spring lamb with peas, broad beans and young mint, or in winter with some confit pork belly and slow cooked parsnips and apple.


Do you have a particular dish that was a favourite to create?

One of my favourite dishes is my slow cooked lamb shoulder. My mentor Greg Malouf inspired me and taught me how to use Middle Eastern spices and flavours to create beautiful dishes. It’s a simple lamb shoulder, marinated in a spice blend of paprika, black pepper, cloves, all spice (and some more but I cant give away all the secrets), slow cooked to meltingly tender and served with anything seasonal (from winter parsnips and root vegetables to peas and spring greens)


What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

The opening of The Abbey Restaurant. It’s been an eye-opening experience to see how much effort goes into to opening your own restaurant, and the see all the effort turn into such a reward


Is there a dish of another chef that you feel is iconic and why?

 One of my first dishes in London when I arrived 6 years ago and still one of favourite dishes in London! Bone marrow and parsley from St Johns. Fergus Henderson is a pioneer to nose-to-tail cooking and right up my alley in terms of reducing waste in a kitchen


What do you think is on the horizon for the future of the fine dining scene?

 I think a big change will be with recruiting and retaining staff. Staff have long been under-paid and over-worked in the hospitality industry, and there is a decline with the number of good chefs around and young people starting in the industry. I think staff satisfaction and continuous training is very important for the future


Who’s restaurant would you most like to eat at and why?

 One day I would love to go to Eleven Madison Park. Number 1 in the world and I absolutely love their cookbook. Next level fine dining and super seasonal. It would be such an experience


Do you have any new year’s resolutions?

As always, try and go to the gym more often but an interesting one was to learn a new cooking method every month! I love trying new recipes and this month I am fermenting my own kale kimchi





Find out more about The Abbey at St. Albans here |