10 minutes with: Frederick Forster

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th September 2015

Having worked with the likes of Raymond Blanc, Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay, London’s Frederick Forster is onto his next venture – the re-opening of the iconic Le Pont De La Tour.

We chat about what we can expect when it reopens on Monday (28th), what he enjoys most about cooking and winning the Roux Scholarship as well as National Chef of the Year.

Speaking about his influences it’s safe to say that Frederick has had a wealth of experience that has shaped the chef that he is today. He said: “I think I’ve taken something from each of the people I’ve worked with, certainly Raymond Blanc.

Lamb
Lamb

“He was the first chef that I worked for after I left college and was a great building block for me and a great man to work for but I think all of them are very important at different times in my career. People like Gordon Ramsay too, they instilled into me discipline and attention to detail and then people like the Roux brothers; they left a lasting experience on me.

“Of latter day: people like John Williams at The Ritz, someone who I consider to be a bit of a mentor for me, he’s so knowledgeable I don’t think people like him really get the credit they deserve.”

Although going back to the beginning, before he worked with these iconic chefs, Frederick cites his mother as the person that ignited his passion for food.

He said: “When I was young I used to help her go shopping in the market in south east London and at time I was thinking ‘what’s all this about’ but then I started to get more involved and help her in the kitchen. “Also when I went to school I was the only guy doing home economics and it was something I really enjoyed. My teacher really encouraged me to continue cooking so in my final year I thought that I wanted to go to college and learn a bit more, I’d also become fascinated by reading these great books, like Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc.”

Beetroot salad
Beetroot salad

Helping out at The Ritz during holidays and then starting his first position at Le Manoir, Frederick believes he doesn’t have a particular style of food but has naturally favoured classical French. He explained: "I didn’t have a particular genre of food I wanted to stick to, when I went to Raymond Blanc I was captivated by his style of cooking which was very innovative, a French classic base; he was very gifted.

“I enjoyed learning but as my career went on I found myself working in French-orientated places and I realised that was what I enjoyed doing most and it got the best out of me; I appreciated the classics and not really been one for all the molecular gastronomy cooking.”

It was whilst working with Simon Rogan at Addington Palace that Frederick won the Roux Scholarship. Of Simon he said: “He gave me my confidence back to cook and he helped me a lot, he encouraged me to enter the Roux Scholarship when I was with him and I actually ended up winning.

“Prior to winning, I’d entered a few competitions before whilst I was with Raymond (Young Chef of the Year) and I also entered the Roux Scholarship when I was with Gordon Ramsay and got through to the final but didn’t win.

Ceviche Lobster
Ceviche Lobster

“After that I stopped competing for a while, although whilst at Gordon Ramsay I competed in Young Chef of the Year and actually came second to Marcus Wareing, who I worked with at Aubergine.”

Although Frederick has entered a few competitions and knows it isn’t the ultimate goal for him to win he still feels winning the Roux Scholarship is something he can look back upon with pride.

He said: “I enjoyed the challenge of it but it wasn’t something that I thought was the be-all and end-all but I knew that some competitions can do a lot for your career and if you win something of this nature it can’t be bad for you. So I entered again and won and I still say it’s one of my greatest achievements.

“Now looking back there’s not many people that have won both the Roux Scholarship and National Chef of the Year so personally it makes me proud.”

However it wasn’t long after winning that he decided he wanted to work somewhere other than the UK. Frederick explained: “Since leaving college I hadn’t stopped working and I just wanted a break and do something a little bit different.

Le Pont de la Tour
Le Pont de la Tour

“I went to France to do a three month stage out there and came back and had the chance to go to Barbados and thought why not. I went there and then after that went to Dubai, so that was it really; it was something different.”

Having cooked in various countries and for different established chefs Frederick still has the same motto all these years down the line of ‘less is more’.

He explained: “Over the years my cooking has probably changed a lot but I certainly do enjoy putting less is more on a plate. “I really want to focus on taste and texture as much as possible and I think the way people go out to eat nowadays, I think people in general want to go back to eating simpler food. I really enjoy that way of cooking, when I’ve been on stages or working with different people I’ve always appreciated that approach and I think Le Pont De La Tour is based around that.”

His cooking may be classical but Frederick says he doesn’t have one dish that he’d say is his signature instead he cooks with “what’s available”. He explained: “I wouldn’t say I have one dish to be honest with you, I’m a great lover of simplicity and braised food, taking the cheaper cuts of meat and making it into something spectacular as opposed to using something like a beef fillet for example.

“I just love working within the seasons and what’s available to you and making it work.” And personally? “I like Japanese food, I’ve always appreciated the smaller, finer flavours, Italian cuisine too; I just love food really, it can be anything.”

Le Pont de la Tour
Le Pont de la Tour

However Frederick is clear on the menu for the soon to be opened Le Pont de la Tour, opening on Monday 28th, he said: “The menu is pretty much sorted, there’s going to be a few little tweaks here and there, but it’s ready to go.

“I want people to come here and say that they’ve had delicious food, value for money, taste and flavour and a fun time here, leaving here thinking they’ve come to a place that is vibrant.

“We’re having two parts to the restaurant: a bar area as well as the finer seated area, so I want people to have the versatility to also sit in the bar and have a few smaller plates.”

Being the largest amount of covers that he has catered for Frederick said: “It’s the largest amount especially as it’s a two tier restaurant in terms of what they’re offering, it’s a lovely location and it’s very iconic; so I think it has a great following and pleased to be a part of the re-opening.”

Le Pont de la Tour
Le Pont de la Tour

Being so iconic it can be said that there was a bit of added pressure on Frederick but this isn’t something that fazes him, he said: “Without sounding too arrogant I’m not someone who worries about pressure, I’ve been in a lot of pressurised environments in my career and I think it brings out the best in you.

“You need to be challenged and I enjoy that element of pressure, after being closed a lot of people are going to be wondering what’s going on at Le Pont now so for me I embrace that.” For now Frederick is eager for the 28th to come around as this is the first opening he’s done and he can’t wait for people come in and try the food.

By Aimee Davis

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th September 2015

10 minutes with: Frederick Forster