What inspired you to become a chef?
I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do in my life. My parents and grandparents said to me why don’t you try to become a Chef? And I said forget it, but because of the pressure I tried it, I hated it for my first 6 months, working long hours and weekends and so on, but then something changed and I haven’t turned back since!
Tell us more about your culinary background – where did you train?
I began my cooking career in Iceland aged just 16 working at one of Reykjavik’s most renowned restaurants and hotels. In 2001, I moved to London to join the Michelin-starred restaurant Pétrus, owned by Gordon Ramsay and run by Marcus Wareing.
Later the same year, I accepted a Sous Chef position at highly acclaimed Michelin Star Léa Linster in Luxembourg in order to develop my understanding of French cuisine. In 2002, I returned to England, this time to join Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, the oldest two Michelin-starred restaurant in the country. I was promoted to Head Chef in 2005, and two years later launched Texture.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Fresh, seasonal, clean
What can guests expect from a meal at Texture?
A key ethos for me is that I don’t use any cream and butter outside of dessert, as I prefer the clean, fresh flavours that come through when these are removed from the plate. I cook and eat healthily as much as I can, and always focus on using plenty of fresh vegetables in my dishes. An important thing is after your meal you should be able to walk outside, feeling satisfied but not stuffed. Although not a vegan myself, I am really keen to elevate plant-based dining to Michelin-star standards so we also offer seasonal vegan à la carte and tasting menus.
Name three of your top restaurants.
When I’m in Iceland, my favourite place to eat is at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon and it doesn’t matter if it’s at the Moss, Spa or Lava Restaurant, I always feel like home and what i love most about it is the passionate people. In London, Restaurant 34 is my daughter’s favourite. Last, but not least, recently opened HIDE restaurant by Ollie Dabbus is an amazing place!
What does it take to achieve a Michelin star?
Don’t know, I guess, consistency, hard work, top ingredients and determination.
Is it true Raymond Blanc once sent a ten-course meal to your sickbed?
Yes – I was going with him to Chicago to cook once and I got sick and had to go to hospital. Not only did he spend two days at the hospital with me but he also had a 10-course dinner sent to me in my hospital room from the best restaurant in the city.
Do you have a favourite winter ingredient?
It’s not specific to winter, but a particular ingredient I love to use is Skyr. Skyr is incredibly versatile; growing up in Reykjavik, we used to mix our skyr with cream (and sugar, if we could get away with it) and eat it with blueberries. It could be for breakfast or dessert, it worked beautifully for both! It also went into all our desserts at home – be it cheesecake or ice cream, you knew skyr was the main ingredient. At Texture we use skyr in almost everything, from our barley dip and ice creams to our baked skyr parfait.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Patience, hard work, it’s a very difficult job and you need to love it to be able to get success.
What do you predict will be 2019’s hottest food trend?
I think the focus on health more broadly is only going to strengthen. We’ve seen veganism sky rocket, and I don’t think this is going anywhere. I think this is the year where plant-based dishes and menus will be expected as standard at all restaurants – there are over 3 million vegans in the UK, after all!
Do you have any role models?
I’d have to say my mentor, Raymond Blanc! I learnt so much working in his kitchen and continue to look to him as a role model. Over the years we became family!
What’s next on the cards?
Finally… what’s your go-to midnight snack?
Try Aggi’s dishes in person at Texture
34 Portman St, Marylebone, London W1H 7BY