Richard McLellan, sous chef, Alyn Williams at The Westbury, Mayfair

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th October 2013

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Richard McLellan is sous chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury, the Michelin-starred restaurant headed by Alyn Williams at the exclusive Westbury Hotel in Mayfair. Richard originally trained as an architect before travelling the world for several years and eventually moving into cheffing. He started off as a humble kitchen porter and has worked his way up the ranks without any formal training except what he has learned under the great chefs he has worked for like Billy Drabble, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Tom Aikens, Jun Tanaka, Marco Pierre White and Shane Osborn before finally coming to work for Alyn Williams. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out how it’s going…

You’ve been at Alyn Williams at The Westbury from the start; how did you come to be here? Had you worked with Alyn before? I met a friend of Alyn’s and he put us in touch with each other. We met very informally in a local pub in Fulham because coincidentally we were living very close to each other. He was still working for Marcus Wareing at the time. He talked me through the project and we took it from there. I started with Alyn in February 2011 and we opened in October during which time we worked on the dishes, sourcing suppliers and trying new ingredients - all the foundation work for opening the restaurant. Is this the position of biggest responsibility in your career so far? I was sous chef at Pied a Terre but it was different because Shane Osborn had already set up the foundations so I just had to fit in and keep it running; but here, because it was new, Alyn and I were setting it up together. It was extremely exciting and it taught me a huge amount because of the size of the brigade, and because Alyn has allowed me the opportunity to develop myself. How would you explain the food philosophy and the ethos here? The ingredient is paramount to everything. We are meticulous about who we use, what comes into the kitchen and how it’s cooked. Because our ingredients are so good we treat them very simply to get out their best. We have a very close relationship with our farmers and growers that enables us to showcase their ingredients. You have something called the ‘wine room’ which seems like a pretty unique concept; can you explain it? It’s almost like a chef’s table combined with a wine cellar. It fits a maximum of ten people. Alyn liaises with the sommelier about what wines he’s going to serve and we then pair the food around the wine as opposed to the wine being paired around the food, which is good for us as chefs because we learn more about wine. We taste the wines and try to think what ingredients would go well with them.  it’s a completely bespoke menu every time. You also have CHEFstock running this month where you get in guest chefs to cook alongside Alyn; how is that going? Yes, each Tuesday this month we have a different chef in the kitchen. We’ve already had Sat Bains which was amazing. He came down on the Monday with a handful of his brigade and we all mucked in to create an eight course tasting menu with four dishes each from Sat and Alyn which complimented each other. It was the first time I’d met Sat; he’s a great character and his food’s lovely too. I’m really looking forward to working with Simon Rogan in two weeks’ time but I’m also very interested in working with the two international chefs, Iggy Chan and Bart de Pooter, because I’ve never tried their food before and it will be really interesting to see how they work. Last year you won a Michelin star, three AA rosettes, Alyn won the National Chef of the Year competition and you came 15th in the National Restaurant of the Year in a relatively short space of time; what was it like to be here during that period? All four of those achievements were great. I think personally for Alyn the National Chef of the Year award was an amazing accomplishment but also of course getting the star.  After leaving Marcus Wareing and setting out on his own for him to get the star that quickly was a huge success. What is Alyn like to work for? Great, the expectation is there that everyone is expected to work really hard but it’s more about building a good team around him rather than just working people like dogs so they’re nervous wrecks. You want people to leave your brigade stronger as cooks and stronger in character, not as weak, meek, nervous kids who are frightened to touch a carrot because they might get barked at; that’s ridiculous. How has Alyn influenced you as a chef since you’ve been here? Everyone I’ve worked with has given me something. I’ve been very lucky to work with so many great chefs and they’ve all contributed in their own way. Personally I think Alyn will be the last person I work under. He’s kind of polished me up a little bit and made me realise that I’m ready to do it on my own. I think what will stay with me from what Alyn has shown me is how he wants his kitchen run, how he treats the ingredients and how he deals with his suppliers – that personal bond that you have with growers and breeders which enables you to do what you want and is kind of priceless really. You say that Alyn will be the last person you work under; does that mean you’ll be opening your own place soon? I’d obviously like to run my own place one day but I don’t know when. It’s all about opportunity. Who knows, maybe Alyn will help me, you never know! View the recipe’s here:- Devon ruby red sirloin and cheek Orkney scallop Strawberry Sundae  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th October 2013

Richard McLellan, sous chef, Alyn Williams at The Westbury, Mayfair