Lessons learned with Andrew Fairlie, Claude Bosi and Corey Lee by Ian Scaramuzza

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

When he joined the brigade at Gleneagles, Ian Scaramuzza said, "I was a bit cocky." 

"But I got it knocked out of me straight away." 

Ian Scaramuzza, Roux scholar and head chef at In Situ in San Francisco set his sights high early on. He staged with Andrew Fairlie after four months in the kitchen, though, speaking to Paul Newbegin on his latest Paul @ The Pass podcast,  he admits that the experience came as a bit of a shock.

"Andrew was laughing at me, I had black buttons in my jackets and I didn't know half of the ingredients on the plate  - it was like a proper eye-opener and then I was like: 'shit I need to learn a lot.'" 

He sought a job at at Etain with Geoffrey Smeddle because the chef was known for being one of Glasgow's best - and when asked what his five year plan was, he told him he planned on winning the Roux Scholarship and on working for Andrew Fairlie - both of which he wound up doing. 

But within a few months of working at Etain, Geoffrey left to open The Peat Inn.

"I was annoyed. I was like: 'I've just started with this guy and he's just bought this restaurant.'"

"So I started looking from my way into Andrew's." 

Ian Scaramuzza
From left: Michel Roux Jr, Ian Scaramuzza, Andrew Fairlie, 
David Nicholls at the Roux Scholarship awards 2015

The chef did stage after stage at Gleneagles and "hounded" Andrew for months before being offered a position - as a commis, accepting a large paycut for the prize. 

Over the course of the next year, the chef then fought his way from making canapes and doing shifts on the potwash to garnish and then meat and fish. He then equested to be a tournant - which a bemused Andrew let him do.

"He laughed at me because it's a sous chef who's a tournant and I'd been there for like, must've been like a year, and he was like: 'okay, you want to be a tournant so I'll give you a week to go round the sections and then you're on the rota for next week.'"

While the chef encouraged Ian's ambition, he made sure he didn't move up the ranks too fast; it was three years before he was promoted to chef de partie. 

"He made you wait, you really had to do your time."

He describes the kitchen as Gleneagles as "very disciplined" and running "like a machine."  At the time, Andrew still worked most shifts in the kitchen - and rarely raised his voice. 

"He was calm, he was very calm. "

"I think I maybe got shouted at a few times in a few years but you knew if you were shouted at it was bad -  if he lost his temper it was bad because he never lost his temper." 

As well as holding a tight ship in the kitchen, Andrew helped the young chef plan his next steps - organising stages at the restaurants he wanted to work at, from Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social, The Ledbury, The Greenhouse, Ducasse, Restaurant Sat Bains and The Vineyard.

Eventually, the drive for the hustle and bustle of London - where, as he saw it, chefs had to work even harder than elsewhere - finally brought Ian to work at Hibiscus, which he described as "the perfect fit" for what he was looking for at the time.  

"It was chaotic in the kitchen. It was so busy, Claude was the complete opposite from Andrew and it was just amazing to see the way that he worked, the way he cooked, the way he ran the kitchen, the way he ran a service, it was almost everything I'd never done before so it was almost like stepping into a whole new line."

Ian said the Hibiscus chef "never let anything slip." 

"Claude never didn't push, you never had - even if you were quiet there was no messing around - it was always very serious, very focused on the food, everything was super fresh, we did a lot of stuff a la minute that you could have probably not have to do. There were so many standards that he set and that was just the way it was." 

"I loved it, I thought it was brilliant." 

Altogether Ian spent over a decade working for Andrew Fairlie and Claude Bosi, who both encouraged him to do the Roux Scholarship - and to win it the first time round, joining the ranks of André Garrett, Sat Bains, Simon Hulstone and Mark Birchall, to name a few. 

Ian didn't leave his next move up to chance; having kindled a love for Asian cuisine, he chose to stage at Benu as his reward for winning the cooking competition.

In Situ
In Situ at SFMOMA

"I was fascinated how this guy [Corey Lee] who'd been the chef at the French Laundry was making Xiaolongbao at his three star restaurant - I think two stars at the time." 

"I was fascinated by his technique and the different aspects of his menu - you could see some French techniques, some Chinese influence and Korean - it was out of my comfort zone." 

Now the head chef at In Situ, at MoMa in San Francisco,  Ian describes the restaurant  as being like an extension of the art gallery.

It exclusively serves dishes thought up by other chefs, proposing a curation of what three Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee considers to be the best plates of food from around the world, including dishes from Michael O'Hare, Michel Gerard, Tim Raue, Ferran Adrià, Paul Cunningham, Esben Holmboe Bang, Clare Smyth and Simon Rogan. 

Ian relishes what others may question about the concept - why he chooses to cook other chefs' food.

"I'm one of these people, I want to work in different restaurants and places and  I've found a place where I can be in one place but it's like travelling around the world," he said. 

And that's not to say he doesn't have his own style - though he found his Obsession takeover at Northcote, where he was joined by joined by Ollie Williamson of Clove Club (formerly Benu, Wasted), Mark Abott and his sous-chef, Shaun Williams, to be a challenge in that sense. 

"It was a chance for me to do what I would see as my food." 

While the chef is keen to open his own restaurant, he learned his lesson - perhaps from Andrew - about pacing himself. 

"A lot of people jump in a little bit early and I don't know if they'll all be around in years to come, so I think I'm going about it in another way, making sure when I do something it's right and it's the right thing and it's the right time." 

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall  – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 16 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 560,000 followers across Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 6th August 2019

Lessons learned with Andrew Fairlie, Claude Bosi and Corey Lee by Ian Scaramuzza