Can you tell us a little about your culinary background?
I started out working in a bakery shop before attending culinary school. I then went to work in Paris for five years, working with Alain Ducasse, Alain Dutournier and Frédéric Anton, before spending six years in New York where I became head chef at the Sofitel. I then moved to Thailand, working in both China and Australia while being based in Bangkok, before returning to London in 2010 where I took over the kitchen at Brasserie Roux. I worked for Albert Roux until opening The Balcon in October 2011.
What first inspired your interest in food?
I have always been interested in food and cookery, and decided as a teenager that I wanted to become a chef. My first job was in a bakery and I loved the experience, so chose to attend hotel school to train as pastry chef. Even so, I always stayed close to the kitchen stove as it always appealed to me.
Where do you find culinary inspiration?
I like to visit farmers’ markets as well as visiting other restaurants and reading a variety of food and beverage blogs, magazines and other food-related books. I’m also inspired by my travels and pick up flavour and ingredient ideas from around the world.
How important is the provenance of ingredients to your work?
Ingredient origin is very important to me. I like to know how my ingredients are produced; for vegetables, the seasonality and origin matter as much as consistency and quality. My beef comes from two farms; ribs and burger meat from a farm in Aberdeen and the beef fillet from Cumberland, while my chicken is sourced from Rhug Estate farm in north Wales. I really like the way the people at Rhug raise their animals and the work they put into it shows in the quality of their milk. Fish comes via my contact Terry at The Upper Scale; he will text me daily to let me know the best produce to buy with regards to quality and price.
How does seasonality impact upon your menu?
Seasonality is very much part of my menu at The Balcon – the menu is always changing depending on the best produce available at the time. I particularly like spring when flavours, colours and textures really start to emerge.
Which is your favourite world cuisine?
I love Thai street food – the colours and flavours are always exciting.
When you are not working, which are your favourite London restaurants?
I worked for Michel Roux Junior for a few weeks and would recommend the classic cuisine and great menu at his restaurant Le Gavroche. I’m a regular at Terroir; I’ve probably tried every dish on the menu and I love the simplicity and small-plate presentation. Finally, Koffmann’s, where I particularly recommend the black pudding and pig trotter – I still wonder how he manages to give them so much flavour!
What would you choose for your last meal?
For my last meal I would have something sweet – the chocolate mousse that my grandmother made for me while I was growing up. I have great memories of making it with her. But I hope my last meal won’t happen anytime soon!
The Balcon, Sofitel St James, 8 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5NG, +44 (0)20 7968 2900