Gavin Edney, head chef, André Garrett at Cliveden

The  Staff Canteen

Gavin Edney is head chef at André Garrett at Cliveden, Taplow, which holds three AA Rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide 2017. 

A Cornish man with a love for wild food, Gavin previously worked at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's and Galvin Restaurants, before moving to the countryside to work for André Garrett.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Gavin about his roots, the culture shock of working in a London restaurant why entering chef competitions keeps things fresh.

Dover Sole recipe by Gavin Edney head chef at André Garrett at Cliveden
Dover Sole

Why did you want to be a chef?

I’ve always been interested in cooking, from a young age. I grew up in Polruan - a small village on the south coast of Cornwall. It’s the sort of place where everyone gets a boat before they get a car! I remember stopping on my way to school every morning, watching all the fishing boats unloading the fish and I think that sparked my interest. My mum’s house is a stone’s throw away from the sea. We'd go fishing as kids and she'd cook it for our tea!

Why did you move to London?

I stayed in Cornwall until I was 21 and I had worked in the local area until then. I had my first job aged 15 and stayed with my head chef for two years. Then when he opened a local brasserie, I followed him there.  Having worked in the village for so long, one day I thought: 'I need to get away or I’ll be here forever'. I think every young Cornish person goes through that, especially from the more remote areas. I thought: if you’re serious about cooking, you’ve got to go to London, so I secured a job and went. It was a bit of a shock to the system!

What was it like working at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s?

Info bar

Dream restaurant -

It would be on the south coast of Cornwall because that’s where I come from. Wild food at the heart - dayboat fish, Cornish beef and lamb, local cheeses, wine and lager. Everything local.

Dream brigade –

I don’t really know! I’ll say chefs that I like:
I love all the snacks Corey Lee (Benu)  gives out at the start so I’d put him on canapés – lots of lovely intricate canapés.

Then maybe Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park) on the cold larder if he’d step down!

I’ve got to have my boss André Garrett on the hot starters because he’s a legend! I would have put him on the fish, but I have to put Nathan Outlaw on there because he’s the king of fish. 

Tom Kerridge on the meat because I love the meat dishes at The Hand and Flowers, especially the pork dish.

Then there’s only ever going to be one pastry chef… and that’s Mary Berry! Everyone likes a piece of cake.  

It was something very different to what I’d been used to – the customers, the hours... and I couldn’t believe people ate so late! I was working in a big team - Steve Allen was the head chef but Mark Sargeant was the name above the door.  We had a massive brigade from all over the world so I was really getting to know different people, their beliefs and backgrounds. I think the main thing I took away from it was time management. You don’t realise it while you’re working there but when you step away, you’re so much more efficient because you’ve had so much to do in such a short space of time.

Can you tell us more about working with Jeff and Chris Galvin and their restaurants?

I was introduced to the Galvins by Warren Geraghty who became the executive chef for them, knowing that Edinburgh was really taking shape at that time. I went and had a meeting with Jeff Galvin, we got on and he offered me senior sous chef at The Pompadour by Galvin. I worked on the opening there and the Brasserie de Luxe, both of which opened within two weeks of each other. I did a month in Galvin at Windows, a couple of weeks in Galvin La Chapelle and then a few days in Bistrot de Luxe too.

I got to really understand the Galvins’ ethos, what they stand for and their cooking styles. Both Jeff and Chris are top chefs and great businessmen. I learnt a lot working for them and I have a lot of respect for what they have achieved. 

Which other top chefs have worked for the Galvins?

Chris is a bit like The Godfather! When he walks in, he’s the businessman and Jeff was the chef in the kitchen with us - we were testing and setting up all the menus. It was really inspiring to work with them.

They’ve got a lot of knowledge to pass on. To go to a place and be involved with it four months before it opened - it really helped me to understand how that works because one day I’d like to do my own thing. To do it with others first, you have an idea of what works and what doesn’t already.

Do you enjoy working with André Garrett?

Gavin Edney Head Chef  and André Garrett chef patron at André Garrett at Cliveden low res
Gavin Edney and Andre Garrett

I knew him from Galvin at Windows. When we were leaving Edinburgh, Warren told me that André was leaving to go to Cliveden. He put me forward and I had a good chat with André about what he wanted to achieve there. I didn’t have to cook for him, I just had to spend some time with him and see what we thought of each other. He knew, because I'd worked with the Galvins and he had spent so much time with them, it was a natural fit. Our relationship is very strong so it just works. 

What are your daily responsibilities at André Garrett at Cliveden?

First thing in the morning, I’ll come in and make sure the produce is correct - we’ve got a couple of fantastic sous chefs that help with that. We’ll do a team briefing, then I’ll speak to the suppliers and make sure we’re getting the best price and the best ingredients. I will spend most of my day with the team, training and helping them. During service, I run the pass and make sure everything that goes out is to standard and that we’re running on time. I also look over all the EHO and make sure all the costs are in line. In any spare time, we develop new dishes and test different things.

Mackerel tartare recipe by Gavin Edney head chef at André Garrett at Cliveden
Mackerel tartare

We have parties, people take over the house for functions or meetings. When they want something fun for the food, something different, I work with them and we get a menu together. Some have a mood board of what they want to see on their plates and how they want their party to be. Ten years ago, people would get a set menu - starter, main and dessert - but our industry has changed a lot and we have a lot more conversations between chef and customer. It keeps it fresh and fun!

What dishes are on the menu at Cliveden House?

Tell us about the menu – how much input does André have?

Our menu is based around the best possible ingredient seasonally. We try and source as much as we can from our local suppliers and farms, fish from Cornwall, meat from the Lake District, but we also use a lot of French, Spanish and Italian ingredients. We pick the best produce we can get and cook it to the best of our abilities, without messing around with the ingredient too much. André is classically trained, so that comes through in the food here. He’ll take a classic dish, put a bit of a twist on it and make it his own.

He has his name on the door so everything that goes out into the restaurant is his food, every dish has to be to his standard. We do a big menu change every season and then there’ll be little tweaks throughout He’ll come to me with a spec, then the team and I will go away and cook something a few times until we get it right and he’s happy for it to go on.

Roast Devon lamb recipe by Gavin Edney%2C head chef at André Garrett at Cliveden (low res)

Roast Devon lamb, miso aubergine,

olives, rosemary

We also have a seasonal lunch menu that we change every month. We always encourage the boys to come up with dishes and contact suppliers themselves. We try and get everybody involved, letting them have some sort of creativity. When they see something go on the menu that’s theirs, it’s amazing for them and they take a lot of pride in it.

Do you have a favourite dish?

That’s a tricky question! We do a Cornish fish soup with some seared red mullet, crispy octopus, charred cucumber and a little rouille and it’s delicious. Very simple flavours but beautifully cooked fish, and it’s all from Cornwall – not that I’m biased! I like a lot of the dishes though. 

Why enter National Chef of the Year and the Roux Scholarship?

I entered the Roux Scholarship because of working with André and seeing what it’s done for him. It’s an amazing prize that keeps on giving, you’ve got that link with the Rouxs and the Roux Scholarship family which consists of some of the best chefs in the country. That year, it was my last chance and it was a fantastic experience. I was two days too old to do it the year after.

I wanted to do another competition though, so I chose to enter National Chef of the Year. If you do industry competitions, it keeps you sharp, it keeps you thinking. There’s so much more out there than just your place where you work. You live and breathe that every day, so it’s nice to throw yourself into the fire occasionally. I will do competitions again - whatever the outcome, it helps you grow as a chef and as a person. It’s good to challenge yourself.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d love to open my own place one day and I love the idea of a food-led pub. I’d like a busy place where I could cook great food. Somewhere busy and if it worked out, I’d like to open another one in Cornwall - then I’d be happy!  I would like to do that one day, but at the moment, I’m just happy training.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th July 2017

Gavin Edney, head chef, André Garrett at Cliveden