André Garrett, Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th September 2014

André Garrett has already fitted more into his career than most, having represented the UK in the Bocuse d’Or, winner of the Roux Scholarship 2002, earned the Master of Culinary Arts in 2005 and gained a Michelin star in his time as head chef at Galvin at Windows.

Now he has taken on the job of rejuvenating the faded grandeur of one of the UK’s great old hotels, Cliveden House. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out how it’s going, after almost a year at the helm.  

Andre Garrett at Cliveden

André Garrett, 

Cliveden House

How did the move to Cliveden House come about?

It was a big decision to leave Galvin’s, but I would say for the last two years I was always looking for something else for myself. I knew it was time to move. I think it’s important as a chef that you get to a stage where you think: am I going to go it alone? Am I happy doing it for someone else? Do I buy my own place? I did look at many things and there were a lot of offers and then this one came along - purely by chance through Tom Kerridge who knows Sue Williams [General Manager at Cliveden House]. I spoke to Sue and started to learn more about the owners and what their vision for Cliveden was.  I thought about how I could have a signature restaurant in the centre of that and I decided that that’s what I wanted to do.

It’s a great place. I can remember when I was younger and I started my career, this was the place to come outside of London. Great chefs have worked here, and it was a great opportunity to put it back on the map after it’s been neglected for so long. It’s been a phenomenal ten months - we’ve come on so much and we’re on a long, long journey.

You’re not just responsible for the restaurant, are you? Aren't you in charge of all the outlets across the hotel?

That’s correct, and that’s what makes it challenging but special as well. It’s a whole food culture change within the hotel and it’s all André Garrett in a way. However, with that comes a massive amount of pressure and my team are vital - how I grow and progress them.

The next few years are very exciting with lots of refurbishment of the house, including the kitchens! It’s a 38 bedroom hotel at the moment, so relatively small in terms of rooms, but it’s a busy, busy place. We have the restaurant which has done really well, then you have private dining. There’s the club restaurant, which is a bit more brasserie-style food with its own separate kitchen, then there’s a big pastry section for afternoon tea and breakfast, of course. The restaurant is the centre of excellence in a way and everything comes off of that and is a part of that, so it’s a big hub.

How did you go about creating dishes for the restaurant?

Dover Sole Veronique by Andre Garrett%2C Andre Garrett at Cliveden
Dover Sole "Veronique"

I’ve got a very classical background so there’s been a heavy classical influence there. On the opening menu, we’ve brought back some old favourites like the Dover sole Veronique, which was a big hit.  So it was looking at favourites that people liked, appreciated and understood - reinventing them and putting a modern touch on them.

You’ve got a beautiful grand restaurant within this amazing house so a really modern style of food is not going to fit here, but we do need to inject a bit of modernity and freshness into it so that’s how we’ve gone about it. Looking at those classical influences and flipping them around and modernising them. People come here for the big occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, that sort of thing, so it’s about having that grand style, but without being starchy and having too many staff around you.

How does it feel to win a Michelin star?

Top 5 meals
Restaurant Bras
Noma
The French Laundry
The Fat Duck
The whole of my recent trip to Japan with the Roux Scholars Club.

Most influential chefs
The Roux Brothers
Chris Galvin (a big influence and a great friend)
Guy Savoy (where I did my stage after winning the Roux Scholarship)
John Williams (a great chef, role model and advisor)
Eric Frechon
Alain Chapel

Top 5 comfort foods
Pizza
Dim sum
Sunday roast dinner
Mozzarella cheese from Puglia (my girlfriend is from Puglia, the home of mozzarella, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted)
Saturday breakfast with my girlfriend – duck egg benedict

Winning the star at Galvin at Windows was an amazing achievement. It was a big restaurant – 150 covers for dinner and 100 covers for lunch. To set up something from scratch and get to that star level was just phenomenal. When we opened Galvin at Windows, it was a great restaurant, it was busy, but I’m not sure everybody thought we could achieve those sorts of highs. To do that was really satisfying, but it was tough as well. We were given a Rising Star in the first year.

I didn’t really understand what that meant and I think a lot of people just thought a star would come next year. I didn’t realise it just stayed for two years and that was it, and then on the third year it went away and we had nothing and it was like, crikey what are we doing wrong? Then we came into 2009 and the recession hit and it was a tough time; we had to do a lot of things to fill the restaurant and just taking everything we could, keeping the team really, really tight and we all worked extremely hard that year but at the end of that year, 2010, it all came and it was an amazing feeling.

You were at Galvin at Windows for seven and a half years and took it from opening to winning a Michelin star; is it possible to sum up what you achieved there?

We were given a Rising Star in the first year. I didn’t really understand what that meant and I think a lot of people just thought a star would come next year. I didn’t realise it just stayed for two years and then went on the third year and we had nothing and it was like: what are we doing wrong? Coming into 2009 and the recession hit and it was a tough time; we had to do a lot of things to fill the restaurant and just taking everything we could, keeping the team really, really tight and we all worked extremely hard that year but at the end of that year, 2010, it all came and it was an amazing feeling.

Coming into 2009, the recession hit and it was a tough time. We had to do a lot of things to fill the restaurant and just taking everything we could, keeping the team really, really tight. We all worked extremely hard that year but at the end of 2010, it all came and it was an amazing feeling.

Are you looking for stars at Cliveden?

I wouldn’t say we’ve come here particularly to get stars. That isn’t the main aim but it is one aim because to achieve excellence, you’ve got to push up to that level. A great rating in all of the guides is important. Consistency here is vital - it’s a great benchmark for us and marketing-wise it’s very important. It always helps recruitment too.

What would you say is the overall goal for the hotel?

It’s to put Cliveden back on the map - that’s our in-house motto and it really is all about that. To make this one of the number one hotel destinations in the UK, if not Europe and beyond. A lot of the trade and the public have a great, positive feeling about Cliveden House and what it can achieve and I’m in a great position to have a restaurant within the centre of that.

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 and restrict access – 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 12 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 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, 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.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th September 2014

André Garrett, Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire