Ian Scaramuzza, Hibiscus, Mayfair

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Ian Scaramuzza is the 28-year-old head chef at Claude Bosi’s two Michelin star Mayfair restaurant, Hibiscus. Born and brought up in Glasgow and schooled at Andrew Fairlie’s two star restaurant at Gleneagles, Ian moved to London two years ago to work in one of the world’s culinary capitals.

The Staff Canteen caught up with him to see how he’s enjoying life in the big city and working in an internationally renowned kitchen. You’re quite young to be a head chef at a two Michelin star restaurant.

Becoming a chef and career to date

How did you get to where you are today so quickly?
After I left school I did a working apprenticeship at a place in Glasgow called House for an Art Lover which was a museum that did weddings and functions. After that I went to work with Geoffrey Smeddle at Etain. I was there for a year and I went straight from there to Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles. I started in Andrew Fairlie’s as a commis in late 2007 and within three years I was sous chef. I left Andrew Fairlie’s at the end of 2011 and came to Hibiscus.
What did you learn from your time working with Andrew Fairlie?
I learned loads of things. Andrew’s a real role model and a mentor for me because of the way he conducts himself as a chef within the industry. He produces real chefs, real individuals, not robots like some other kitchens. Under Andrew I learned how to conduct myself in the kitchen; how it’s not about shouting and screaming every day; how to run a kitchen; how to run a pass; how to run a team of chefs and most of all, of course, how to cook.
How has that learning curve continued at Hibiscus and how does It compare to Andrew Fairlie’s?
It’s cooking at the same level – two star food – but It’s a different operation, a lunch and dinner operation in London whereas Andrew Fairlie’s is a dinner-only restaurant in a big hotel in the middle of the Scottish countryside. The food is different too. Claude is obviously very well-travelled. His food is French-based coming from his classical French training but there are also international influences which give his food a unique twist. Under Claude I’ve learned a lot about different techniques and different flavour combinations.
This is also your first position as head chef; how has that transition been?
I think as a sous chef you pretty much run the kitchen anyway. Becoming head chef is much more about becoming a manager and not so much about cooking. You have to look after the guys and manage the team.
Is the management side something you enjoy or put up with?
There’s no doubt it can be tough but it’s where you want to be in your career and what you want to do so you get on with it. It’s got its ups and downs; some days it’s really hard; some days it’s not so hard but at the end of the day it’s a challenge and I’ve always enjoyed challenges.

Food style and dish creation

How does menu and dish creation work at Hibiscus?
We’ve got certain things that we do that are Claude’s signature dishes and they change very little. For instance dessert-wise we’ve always got a millefeuille and we’ve always got his chocolate tart; we’ve always got the scallops with pork pie sauce – those things don’t change, but as new things come into season Claude will mention ideas of new things he wants to do and he’ll bounce ideas off us or ask us to try something. The thing about Claude is he can be very spontaneous so he can change a dish in a day or a week or a month. At the end of the day it’s Claude’s restaurant and he has the final say but we do bounce ideas around and I make sure I get the rest of the team’s input when I’m trying something.
Being a relative newcomer to London, have you had a chance to eat out much and what have you found particularly exciting?
At the weekend I was outside London having Sunday lunch at The Hand and Flowers; that was amazing – simple but perfect. I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants in London as well. I’ve eaten at Hospital Road, Pollen Street and Viajante, which were all amazing. In terms of what’s exciting, not just in London, I think there are a few people out there doing something totally unique like Sat Bains – there’s no one out there like him at the moment. Also there’s Tom Aikens; there’s The Fat Duck as well which, as everyone knows, is totally different; then there’s Tom Kerridge of course; what he’s doing at The Hand of Flowers is pretty special.

Recruitment and training

How many people do you have in your brigade at the moment and how important is bringing on the team and helping them develop?
We have a small team; there’s eight people in the brigade at the moment. I think, working in London with all the hours and hard work, it’s the least I can do to help bring them on and give something back to them and keep them learning. At the end of the day I’m still learning myself; I’m by no means the finished article; I’m learning new things every day and I want the rest of the team to keep learning as well.
And will that learning curve include opening your own place?
Definitely one day I’d like to have my own place. Whether that will happen or not I don’t know. I was sous chef at Andrew Fairlie’s at 25 and head chef here at 27 so if I keep going at that pace I should be okay, but I’ve still got a lot to learn so I think I’ve got a few years to go until I’m at the that level.
In an ideal world where would you see yourself opening your own place?
There’s two options – there’s London where you’ve got so much business and so much competition or I’d love to go back to Scotland and in an ideal world it would be in my home town of Glasgow. As we all know it’s not an ideal world but I’ve got that dream to work towards and that’s why I work so hard.  
Photography Credits: Claudia Gannon Rob Whitrow
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th June 2013

Ian Scaramuzza, Hibiscus, Mayfair