10 minutes with: Andrew Jones, executive chef at Chamberlain’s

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th June 2015

Tucked away in Leadenhall Market, London, Chamberlain’s offers a seasonal and sophisticated menu. It's parent company is fishmongers Chamberlain and Thelwell in Billingsgate Market, therefore the restaurant specialises in fish and shellfish.

As we are focusing on seafood this month I visited Chamberlain's and spoke to executive chef Andrew Jones about sustainability, the fish market and letting the best ingredients showcase themselves on the plate. Terrace2 (2) low res

“Throughout my career I’ve used Chamberlain and Thelwell the fishmongers, I knew they had a restaurant and heard they were looking for a head chef – I was looking for something new. It all came together at the right time and it was a natural match,” explained Andrew Jones who took on the head chef role in 2011. He appealed to Chamberlain’s because of his classical training and style but also his desire to deliver the best dishes.

Andrew, who won the Roux Scholarship in 2004, said: “It’s been a slow progression. I didn’t come in and change the whole menu on the first day – it would be unrealistic to do that. It was more about taking the ingredients and the basics and making them better. So simple things; we serve fish and chips, how can we make it the best fish and chips we can serve? 

"Simple, bring everything in house! Make your own mushy peas, ketchup and beer vinegar, instead of buying it in. Small changes but they make the overall product we serve better.”

Chamberlains claims to serve the ‘best fish and seafood in the heart of the city’ a very bold statement when you consider the pedigree of restaurants they are surrounded by. So is it true?

Andrew said: “It is! Our parent company is Chamberlains and Thelwell, a wholesale fishmonger in Billingsgate Market, they deliver to every five star hotel in London and the quality of the fish they deliver is the best it can be._DSC5806 low res

“We use what we call European species of fish so fish that has been landed within the European Union, the majority of which is landed in Britain.”

He added: “It’s not just the fish, every ingredient we use is the best it can be. The turbot on the menu is 5 kilo plus of fish which I recognised as the best fish to be using. The sea bass is wild and line caught and we use hand dived scallops. It’s been analysed, is there better? We don’t think so.”

Andrew who previously worked at Claridge’s for 12 years and the Westbury, before joining Chamberlain’s, is obviously passionate about his menu and he uses his classic style to create stunning dishes.

“I really enjoy working with fish because it’s so much more delicate than meat,” said Andrew. “The flavours are a lot more subtle so as a chef you need to be careful that you don’t do too much with it, that you don’t actually spoil the fish. The lemon sole dish we have at the moment is a very simple take on a classical dish. It’s a rolled sole with a mousse inside it, we’ve made the mousse a bit lighter, added white and brown crab meat so you get a lot more depth of flavour. Traditionally with paupiettes you would poach or steam it but we bake it slowly so the mousse slightly soufflés in the middle – it’s a really light dish and the sole stands up against the mousse.” grilled lobsterIMG_0068 low res

He added: “I’m very comfortable cooking classical food and doing it right. It’s all about the quality of the starting ingredients and there is nowhere to hide as a chef. You’ve either selected the best ingredients, cooked them properly and seasoned them properly or you haven’t and you’ve done a terrible job with it! There’s no in between ground.”

Despite his love of classic dishes, Andrew still enjoys creating more modern versions in order to appeal to all clientele who dine at Chamberlain’s.

“The menu for me is very ying and yang,” he explained. “There are dishes which are very modern and then there is some very classical cooking. Even the modern dishes, the inspiration is drawn from classic cookery.”

As well as the restaurant, Andrew also designs the menus for the catering side of the business which allows him to be more experimental.

He said: “We have clients who want very modern things, so at Christmas we made London Bridge out of gingerbread but on the flip side we do a lot of high profile functions at places like St James’s Palace or HMS Victory. Cooking in these places is an interesting side to the job.”doversole low res

Andrew enjoys being very hands on when it comes to ingredients, visiting the fruit and veg market and fish market on a regular basis and taking his chefs with him so they can appreciate where the ingredients they work with are coming from.

It may be a restaurant which specialises in fish but you can still order foie gras, lamb, beef – there is a good selection of meat on the menu.

This year they were nominated for the Seafish Restaurant of the Year award, something Andrew believes is key to highlighting the hard work that restaurants put in to the sourcing and provenance of ingredients.

He said: “It’s great that we’ve been recognised. We are a natural choice with our connection with Billingsgate Market and our parent company being fish suppliers, there’s not many restaurants doing the same as what we do.”

Sustainability of fish is something Andrew is interested in and believes chefs have a responsibility when it comes to choosing which species they put on their menu.

He said: “It’s very difficult the sustainability question with fish, it’s something I challenge a lot because I think there are too many mixed messages. Too often chefs are on television saying you must use this fish or that fish, then the next week the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) are saying you shouldn’t be using that fish. A prime example is mackerel! Everyone used it and then stocks got low.”

Smoked Salmon_DSC5585 low resHe added: “I think by-catches is a bigger issue than sustainability. The fact that fish is being caught and then thrown back in the water where it dies. But it’s a tricky issue with fisherman as they have a certain amount of storage on their boats and if they are targeting certain species of fish which are of high value, you will get the bycatch either because it’s not worth them landing it or because it’s the wrong size or wrong type that they won’t get good money for. There’s only certain sizes they are allowed to catch and it’s such a shame that if they are not that size they are going back dead.”

Now a member of Slow Food UK's renowned Chef Alliance, Andrew is also championing forgotten British produce as well as fish sustainability. He joins just eight other City of London chefs, including such esteemed names as Fergus Henderson and Mark Hix.

Slow Food UK's Chef Alliance engages British-based chefs in actively championing small-scale producers, and promoting good quality local and sustainably produced food. It encourages chefs to use seasonal forgotten foods, helping to raise awareness of these traditional British products.

Andrew said: “At the top end of the industry there is a lot more interest in where things are coming from. So many chefs are growing their own now.

“We buy as locally as we can but you’ve got to be realistic we are in London. There’s no way we could buy 100% British – if you’re in the countryside in a small village it’s easier to do that. We do bring things in from abroad but sometimes they are better – for me its quality first then if it’s local, organic, sustainable - those things come after.Salmon_DSC5603 low res

“Most important to me is does it taste nice? If not, it can be organic or from just down the road but if it doesn’t taste nice why would you want to put it on your menu?”

He added: “SlowFood is something that I think is going to really grow over the next few years. If you go round Borough Market, literally half the stalls have the SlowFood logo. I find it very interesting, looking at those small, British ingredients which as chefs you don’t go out and champion – they could quite easily disappear!”

By Cara Pilkington

@canteencara

>>> Read: The Roux Scholarship winners: where are they now? (part 1)

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th June 2015

10 minutes with: Andrew Jones, executive chef at Chamberlain’s