SUMMER JOBS ARE A GREAT WAY TO TRY BEING A CHEF
I never really knew what I wanted to be but then, when I was 14, I got a summer job as a kitchen porter with my Uncle and I just loved being in the kitchen. This was back home in Dublin, Ireland and it was only doing odd jobs, preparing vegetables; just helping with anything that needed doing. When the time came for me to return to school, I asked him if I could come back next year and he said 'What, as a kitchen porter?’ I was like ‘yeah’… I just wanted to be there… but he said, ‘Well, if you like working in the kitchen so much, maybe you should consider becoming a chef.’ That was really what started me along that track.
WHAT INSPIRES ME?
Today, just being in the kitchen always inspires me… trying new dishes, sourcing new ingredients, seeing my customers and family enjoy my food, seeing my own chefs so inspired and excited to create great food… so many things.
When I was younger, my Uncle and my Dad were big influences - and Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver too but for different reasons. Back then, food and the restaurant industry in general wasn’t what it is now. This was around '98/99 and, at the time, there were 2 big names we looked towards – Jamie Oliver because he was new on the scene and making cooking cool, exciting and fun; and Gordon Ramsay because he was really achieving great things in the industry at the time - things that other people hadn’t done so he’d set the bar. Whereas, nowadays, there are so many great chefs and restaurants who apublically share new ideas, recipes, visions - it's really changing things. Seeing so much passion and creativity is really inspiring and pushes you forward to see the possibilities yourself but, really, Gordon and Jamie were key players in starting a food revolution that completely changed things, both in the industry and the public’s attitude towards food, sourcing good ingredients and cooking in general.
MY COOKING STYLE: HUMBLE, SEASONAL, DELICIOUS
Down to earth, unfussy food, with delicious flavours. At Pied-A-Terre, we’ve worked really hard to create a natural style of food in terms of ingredients, flavours and presentation. We want the food to look like food: organic and natural. It’s also very important to us to serve perfectly cooked fresh seasonal ingredients. We put a lot of time and care into ensuring that the ingredients are great quality and full of flavour so we want to showcase them and let them speak for themselves.
PIED-A-TERRE… I JUST CAN’T STAY AWAY
It’s my second time working at Pied-A-Terre. I used to work here for another head chef from 2007-11, after which I spent five years working as Head Chef at our sister restaurant L’Autre Pied. I returned here nearly two years ago as Head Chef and I’m having a great time.
FOOD & FAMILY
My Dad visited the restaurant four years ago before he passed away when I used to work for the other head chef so that was a special moment. When my Mum visited this year, that was quite special too because, obviously, my family all live back home in Ireland so I don't get to see them much. She tried the tasting menu and, although it wouldn’t usually be her style of food (she prefers home-cooking), she genuinely loved it and was so proud. Sharing that with them felt amazing.
IF YOU ONLY EAT 1 DISH AT PIED-A-TERRE, IT HAS TO BE…
The one that the customers always love the most is the scallop ceviche. It’s basically raw marinated scallops about which even people who have never tried them before say ‘Oh, I never thought I’d like raw scallops but I love them.’ They’re genuinely surprised by how much they enjoy the flavours and textures so to know that we’ve opened their minds and palates is brilliant. As a chef, that’s always what you want to achieve when designing dishes. We currently serve the dish with hazelnuts, truffle and black radish.
MY FAVOURITE POSITON IN THE KITCHEN
I love working in the fish section because cooking fish is a real skill. 15 seconds is a lifetime when cooking a piece of pan fried fish… to get it perfectly cooked is always a challenge so that’s fun and, ultimately, I just love prepping fish, cooking fish, working with fish, everything about it.
MY ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD
Something really simple like cheese on toast; but with a really, really good mature cheddar cheese, sourdough bread, Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce and black pepper. I love it!
Dumplings' Legend. The owner likes to eat at our restaurant and he enjoys it so much that he invited us to his restaurant. He’s an amazing man and the restaurant is brilliant too. He invited us to try some dim sum and, as we were sitting at the table, he asked us ‘What’s your favourite Chinese food?’ I said duck pancakes, my colleagues said chicken chow mein, sweet and sour pork…. lots of great dishes… Then 10 minutes later, all of the dishes came out. It was a complete surprise. Absolutely amazing!
Andy McFadden is the Executive Chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Pied-A-Terre.