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31 July 2014

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Interview with André Garrett

(menu)

andre garrett at cliveden 2013 - Andre-Garrett-at-Cliveden-use_resized.jpgAndré Garrett’s career is formidable. He was trained in classic French cookery and honed his skills with the likes of Nico Ladenis, Bruno Loubet and Chris Galvin, before spending four months with three-Michelin-starred Paris chef Guy Savoy in 2002 (part of his prize for winning the Roux Scholarship that year). Since then, Garrett has built a reputation for serving some of the finest French food in London.

Now, after seven years as head chef at Galvin at Windows, he has finally gone it alone, taking over the former Terrace Restaurant at Cliveden, the most famous country house in the UK. It’s a move that’s had the foodie world buzzing, and it’s certainly keeping Garrett (pictured, right) on his toes, but he is relishing the challenge. His namesake eatery, the sumptuously decorated André Garrett at Cliveden, promises to be one of the destination venues of 2014.

You built such a name for yourself at Galvin at Windows, what made you seek a change?

It was time to do something on my own. But I couldn’t decide whether to go it alone or team up with other people, so when Cliveden first approached me I was 50-50 about it. Then I came and stayed and just fell in love with the house and its history. And when I heard about the future plans and the opportunity I would have to bring Cliveden back to where I think it should be for food and beverage – especially with my name over the door – I just thought it was an amazing opportunity.

After 21 years in London, was it strange moving to a country house?

Very strange – getting to work is now a 12-minute drive! I’m originally from Bath, so consider myself a country boy at heart. This area is fabulous, so I really am reconnecting with that love of the country. And London is not far away.

andre garrett at cliveden 2013 - Andre-Garrett-at-Cliveden-1_resized.jpg

Has the move been a steep learning curve? Have you had to change your style of cooking for a non-London crowd?

What I’m doing here is me through and through, very classically based with a heavy French accent and cooking style, but now with a good British base from the ingredients I’m using. My opening menu certainly has that classic edge to it but there’s a London feel too, which I want to keep. I don’t want an old-fashioned starchy dining room. I want to breathe fresh air into the house, give it a new vibe. I’m sure it will take time, but I think with all of us sending out the message, it will work.

What precipitated the need for change at Cliveden?

New owners with a new vision [Cliveden is now operated on a long lease from the National Trust by Ian and Richard Livingstone, the owners of Chewton Glen in Hampshire]. I knew Cliveden when I was young and some great chefs have come through here, but no one ever had their name over the door. I couldn’t understand why Michelin-starred Waldo’s [in the basement] was the main restaurant, when there was the Terrace with that magical view. It makes sense for the Terrace to be the focal point of the house – this is one of the greatest country houses in the UK and deserves to be put back in everyone’s minds.

What do you cherish most in your kitchen?

I will be in charge of the catering for the whole house, from breakfast onwards, so the kitchen team is so important to me – it’s got to have an André Garrett stamp on it. I wanted a fresh start, I didn’t want to deplete the Galvin at Windows kitchen, so I’m building a new team from scratch with people I know from very good kitchens.

andre garrett at cliveden 2013 - Andre_Garrett_at_Cliveden_Dish_3.jpgWhat are your signature dishes?

My cooking is classical with modern elements, so on my opening menu there will be a roast game consommé inspired by Guy Savoy, but served with Jerusalem artichoke cream, mini cep brioche and game canapés, and a dish you just don’t see very often – sole véronique. My version (pictured, right) comes with verjus, salted grapes, fennel and chicken jus gras.

What chefs do you most admire?

Lots of the old French chefs from classical days, but also Guy Savoy – my stage with him was fabulous, I felt so lucky to be in that kitchen. And I might also mention Regis Marçon of Auberge et Clos des Cimes, and Nico Ladenis. Chris Galvin has been a mentor for so many years, not many chefs I’ve worked with have his drive. I was sad to leave, but I had to go – the time had come.

This feature was published on 20 November 2013.

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