Andre Garrett Head Chef Galvin at Windows

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd February 2011

The Staff Canteen Meets ...

Andre Garrett : Head Chef : Galvin at Windows : Hilton Park Lane London

Andre Garrett is head chef of Galvin at Windows, Chris Galvin’s Michelin starred London restaurant located on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton in Mayfair. The restaurant serves seasonally inspired menus based around modern French haute cuisine. It opened in 2006 and won a Michelin star in 2010. Andre Garrett trained at the City of Bath College, after working at a Bath hotel, he moved to London where he worked at three of Nico Ladenis’s restaurants: Simply Nico, Nico Central and the three Michelin starred Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane. He joined Bruno Loubet at Bistro Bruno before returning to Nico Central, this time as head chef. He was sous chef at the five star Landmark Hotel in London followed by senior sous chef at Moxons Restaurant in Clapham.  In 2000 he met Chris Galvin, where he joined him at the Michelin starred Orrery in Marylebone where he moved from senior sous chef to head chef in the space of a year. In 2002 he won the prestigious Roux scholarship, working at the Michelin starred Guy Savoy, Paris, before returning to the Orrery until he took his current position at the opening of Galvin at Windows.

First and foremost thank you very much for your time today lovely to come and meet you"

Thank you very much for coming.

..and to observe this absolutely outstanding view.

Yes it's pretty special.

I can imagine sometimes in the stress of the kitchen it must be just nice to come out here and a few deep breaths and admire the view.

Yes well we're very lucky we have this back balcony here which is outside so we've got a kitchen door on the other side it's a fire exit so you can go out there and if I have any time I need to have a little quiet word with anyone that's where I take them.

Oh you threaten to throw them off do you? ((laughs))

No not that much no but you can also just calm yourself down because you look at that and you think, "˜This is bloody special, this is a very special place to cook, a very special place to work.'

Absolutely actually we've kind of done this the wrong way round really we're talking about someone and we haven't introduced you yet. Andre introduce yourself, tell us a little about your role here, the number of covers you do, how long you've been here, the number of boys in your team, or the number in your team, food style, that type of thing, just general background.

Sure I'm Andre Garrett and I'm head chef here at Galvins at Windows. We opened in May 2006 and I came with Chris (Galvin) from the Orrery Restaurant. It was a very, very busy opening, extremely busy from day one and we've never really gone quiet. Even through the recession we've been very proactive in what we've done. Covers-wise we have a restaurant which has 100 seats"

It's big isn't it bigger than I thought?

Yes it's very, very big. So we can be doing anything up to about 150.

Wow. And that's lunch and dinner Andre?

No, no. Lunches through the year I would say we're doing about an average 60 lunch and then we're doing about an average 120 dinner.

London's fiercely competitive market for lunch isn't it?

Yeah extremely competitive we've had to really look at what we do over the four and a half years we've been open. We've had to really look at what we do, price range, what you're giving to people, people are now looking for much more value, you know, still keeping very seasonal, still keeping modern French, is what our cuisine is here and yeah it's very good and everything's going well.

Good, good and in terms of food style, you mentioned it's modern French is that how you would describe the food style? What can people expect from a typical meal at Galvins?

I would say there's still quite a classical emphasis on the food but there's much more of a modern, lighter style to it. I'm a chef that's very classically trained. I trained with Nico and I like things to be done properly but obviously we've got a modern kitchen we've got a lot of much more modern techniques you have to work, staffing can't always be perfect so you need to balance your menu accordingly and I think we do it quite well.

And how many menus do you offer here?

We have our Menu Prestige which is what people call a la carte and we have our lunch menu and then we have a tasting menu that runs alongside that.

And what are the prices for the menus here at Window Andre?

Lunch menu is £29 for three course

That's good value isn't it? 

prestige is £65 for three course and tasting menu is £85 for eight course.

Right okay. And in terms of your menus how often do you change them is it seasonal?

Yeah the prestige menu and the tasting is seasonal and then the lunch menu is changed every two weeks.

What dish would you say on your current menu best describes you as a chef if you could pick one dish that is Andre Garret?

Yeah I would say probably my, I have a John Dory dish which has been with me for years now, south coast John Dory which is marinated in a little curry oil, it's got caramelised endive, cauliflower purée and then a dressing made with curry oil and golden raisins, capers, pine nuts and it's got a very like reduced shellfish bisque in there to give it quite an umami hit at the end. Lovely. Yes, it's a good dish.

Well it certainly sounds  a great dish.

It's very, very nice.

And some quite sort of strong Asian influences in there as well.

A little bit not too much there's just a few sort of flavour pinpoints and flavours, and I do like Asian food but I wouldn't say I cook Asian at all, you know, it's not really what I would do but I"

Are you finding the world's getting a smaller place and therefore people are much more, you know, 20 years ago if you had something with a curry spice in it, it was quite revolutionary and now it's quite"

Yes people would of said, "Oh he's quite brave,"

Yeah outside of an Indian restaurant you didn't really get that, you know, the sort of blend of herbs and spices and flavours that chefs like yourself are using today.

I think as chefs you love to travel, you love to see, you know, the world is getting smaller we can travel so easily and I think also in French cuisine if I look back they have always taken things from all round the world, taken influences and blended it into their own culture and into their own cuisine as well and I think it's just an extension of that.

London is a food Mecca, not just for the UK but also now for the world it really has taken centre stage where do you look in London for inspiration? Who inspires you chef-wise, hotel-wise, restaurant-wise or even outside London?

Yeah I mean no London is fantastic we have such a diverse culture of food. There are so many things to look at. If I was to look at French, you know, I've got haute cuisine I would go to the Ledbury (Brett Graham) or the Hibiscus (Claude Bosi) or the Square (Phil Howard) is an old favourite of mine. Asian food I mean you just drop down into Soho and you've got lovely sushi bars and everything. I also like my tapas, I like my barrafina and all that sort of thing. I love Italian as well. My girlfriend's Italian so, you know, we have"

Do we do Italian well in the UK?

Yeah but I think the Italians have to do it and being with an Italian I understand Italian food much better now"

Because sadly it's

I've started to travel there and it's very, very interesting.

It's very different in Italy though and sadly we still have a"¦pizza and pasta mentality

Very much.

or Italian restaurants don't we?

I love what Georgio Locatelli does and I also like L'Anima he does a fantastic job at L'Anima, Francesco, very, very good.

Okay. Everyday dining where do you go?

Oh everyday dining?

So night out didn't expect the night off got the chance to go out where do you go? ((laughs)) So many choices.

There is it depends what sort of mood you're in.

Of course where was the last place you ate out?

The last place I went was Bar Boulud. I've been a few times, I love it it's very casual much different than what we do here at Windows.

Absolutely.

I'm very good friends with Ed Wilson who runs Terroirs and I love that place as well and he's just opened a new place in Bethnal Green called Brawn. Fantastic very, very nice. All the charcuterie, you know, all the pig that he's doing it's something very, very good. He's got his slicing machine there and then he's got his Technics turntable and he's spinning disks and it's amazing ((laughs)) absolutely fantastic it's just like a dream. Yeah so you're busy but you've still got a little bit of your life and what you like to do.

Fantastic, fantastic.

It's brilliant yeah.

How would you"¦ you've been here four years now and we've talked about one of the dishes that sort of sums you up but how has your food style evolved in that four years?

It has changed a hell of a lot I think I came here from Orrery and I was quite an arrogant, quite a

Really why?

Just I think we tend to sort of build that culture in a chef I think in a way and also I was still quite young and I think you do get a little bit like that"¦

So what you felt you were arrogant to your team

No just maybe in my food style as well and just who I was and I came here into the Hilton Hotel and, you know, suddenly you realise you're working with the hotel, it's very busy, you've got a massive great team to work with and you have to change and I have to change as well, so management style and everything and then we were very, you know, we had a Michelin star at the Orrery and we came and that was a big goal for me as a chef and I was probably not thinking clear enough and you expect it just to carry on and it didn't and I was quite shocked by that I think

Okay was that a good thing though did it change you and your approach?

I think it was a good thing because I just forgot everything about what had happened before, and that was quite difficult to do and then suddenly you just started to cook what you want to cook and what you like to cook and what you like to eat as well, and you think more about your guests as well and what they like, and what they want to eat and the whole expectation and building and I think what we've done here is build a whole package, restaurant and service and everything blends together very well and that's very important and the hospitality I think.

You know I have a wonderfully privileged position coming to meet people like you and the more people I come and meet, the more chefs are telling me when they start cooking what they enjoy, cooking for the customers, by nature their accolades seem to improve as well do you think that sums up what happened to you?

Yes it is, you've got to stop thinking about yourself and think about your customers and where you're cooking, who you're cooking for, you've still got to really believe in what you're doing and stick to your values and don't compromise that but then there's also you look at your trade, you look at your public what do they want and then how can you balance that together.

Do you think a lot of that also comes from maturity because often when you're young there's a sort of like a desire to do everything yesterday and you've got a lot of almost junk to get out of your system and yet I think everything in life as you get a little bit older you look back and you say, "Well just calm down a little bit."

 It is maturity your life changes, me I went through a divorce when I was here and that totally changed me and I calmed down a hell of a lot and I became a much more of an open person, an open chef and I listen to people a lot more now and I think it shows in my food as well.

You talked about the customers there and we are a business at the end of the day and chefs are in business and you talked about you've been strong through the recession now I notice yourself on Twitter, I notice Galvins on Twitter, how important is that? Is that a part of the business model to get your name out there and promote what you do? Do you use social media is it effective?

I think so it's funny actually Fred, our manager, Fred Sirieix he was groundbreaking with all this and he started doing it himself and I can remember it was probably three years ago and he was doing everything himself, everything himself and he's still crazy on it, you'll probably see him but then suddenly a year or so later the Hilton understood that this was a tool that they should use and they got their own Facebook page, got their own Twitter page now and it is, yeah I mean I look online if you've got a spare minute you read all the blogs and you look at all the online guides and you get an idea of what people think about you and sometimes it is a stark reality, oh my God I need to do something there because they don't like that or you feel quite proud when you're doing well and people are writing good things about you. Yeah the internet has opened up so much and I think you've got to be very aware of it and Twitter's brilliant, I mean, you know, all my friends are there, it's good for networking, you can pick up somebody, you might not know them too well and just send a little message or you send out"¦you're looking for something.

Absolutely it is direct contact and that's how we got together today.

Exactly.

You know it's direct contact and no disrespect you can spend a lot of time phoning up, "Oh he's not here, he's not here." "Who is it? Tell them I'm not here," you know but"¦ Yes. "¦and then on Twitter you can just get to them directly so it's a very direct interaction. Okay you've been here four years, you've been very, very successful, obviously it's got Galvins name above the door but what does the future hold for you? Where are you in five years time? Where do you want to be?

I would say in five years I would like my own place either my own restaurant with my name on the door like Galvins here within maybe a hotel or something like that or my own premises. I'm starting to think about it more seriously now and I always did say from a younger age by the time I've 40 or early 40s I really do want something of my own and I think the time's coming now. I'm still very happy here. I'm learning all the time. It's phenomenal what I've learnt here but yeah it comes to every chef I think, you know, what are we going to do?

Absolutely.

And I'm inspired and I totally respect anybody that goes out there and does it on their own.

It's often a big, brave decision isn't it?

Oh very brave yeah it's a tough old world out there and I've had friends that have not been successful and they're damn good chefs.

One thing London isn't short of is good restaurants.

Very much. 

And if you expect to open another one"¦you've got to be bloody good.

Yes, you've really got to have big balls. It's a tough one.

Yeah, you have.

Anyone that goes out and does it respect to them.

Absolutely, absolutely. Well listen thank you very much for your time I wish you every success for the future.

Thank you very much.

And lovely to meet you.

Thank you very much for today thank you.

That was very painless wasn't it?

((laughs)) Yes.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd February 2011

Andre Garrett Head Chef Galvin at Windows