Marcus Eaves, Head Chef L'Autre Pied, London

The  Staff Canteen
Marcus Eaves is head chef and joint owner of L’Autre Pied, a Michelin starred restaurant specialising in French cuisine in Marylebone, London’s West End. The restaurant was awarded its Michelin star in 2009. Marcus’s biggest inspiration was his father, who was a chef in a local country house hotel. He studied at Stratford-upon-Avon College of Food and Technology and began his professional career at the famous Simpsons restaurant in Kenilworth under Andreas Antona in 1997. In the same year he won Midlands Young Chef of the Year. He subsequently worked with Martin Blunos at his two Michelin starred Restaurant Lettonie in Somerset. After this he moved to London, working with Martin Burge at John Burton-Races’s two Michelin starred restaurant at the Landmark Hotel. He joined Pied à Terre in 2003 as a chef de partie and worked his way up the ranks. Next he moved on to Claude Bosi’s two Michelin star Hibiscus restaurant, followed by a return to Pied à Terre for its 2005 relaunch, where he rose to a senior sous chef position, until opening his own restaurant, L’Autre Pied, with the backing of Pied à Terre co-owner David Moore, two years later. Marcus, first and foremost, thank you very much for inviting me here to L'Autre Pied today. It's lovely to come and see you. Tell us a little bit about your operation, the number of covers you do, how long you've been here, how long the restaurant's been here, the food style; lots of questions in one there for you. Well we've been open three years, it was three years in November and we're generally doing very well. Mid-week we're doing about 25 for lunch, probably about 45 for dinner, Saturday you're looking at about 50 for lunch, Sunday lunch is also about 50. Saturday evening we touch around 70 covers and then Sunday evening's a bit of a quiet one to be honest. It is funny because some weeks you can be doing 45, 50 and then other weeks you can do 15 covers. So you're a seven day week operation. Seven days, yeah, lunch and dinner. Okay and how many boys in the team? There's ten of us, ten on the rota and then that's around six sometimes seven per service so, it's a nice number that really works well. So how did L'Autre Pied come about for you? I mean everyone knows it's the offspring of Pied à Terre, a hugely famous restaurant - David Moore, Shane Osborn - how did you become head chef? I was at Pied à Terre in total four years"¦ Under Shane (Osborn). That's it yeah, all the time under Shane and I got to the point where I felt that I wasn't necessarily going to move up anymore, there wasn't really much space to and so"¦ So you were Shane's number two were you at Pied-a-Terre? That's right, not for the whole time I was there, just for the last two years I mean that's some kitchen as well isn't, Pied à Terre, I mean it's a very famous kitchen. It is yeah, it's was amazing to be there. To be one of the chefs that has come out of Pied-a-Terre. Well that's it, you know. Sometimes, quite often you're too busy to actually think about it, but when you do have a chance to sit down and look back it's true there's some great chefs who've been through Pied-a-Terre. We all should be quite humbled really to have worked in a place like that. It's an amazing restaurant. But anyway, getting back to that, I actually handed my notice in and"¦ Did you have somewhere to go? Yeah I was going to go to work with Claude (Bosi) at Hibiscus. Okay yeah, the new Hibiscus in Maddox Street? That's it, yeah, because I'd already worked with Claude previously in Ludlow. Okay. So we stayed in touch, I was supposed to be going to work over in Mayfair with Claude when Shane and David proposed a partnership in L'Autre Pied. They had both always wanted to open a second place. I think it was always something in the back of their mind, it was supposed to be a bistro or brasserie. The idea in the beginning was possibly big numbers, high turnover.  This came up and obviously you're not going to make a lot of money out of a restaurant this size if you're knocking out your starters at six quid and main courses at £12.95.  There was only one sort of brief for this restaurant really and that was going to be more high end food but very informal, relaxed professional service, because at the end of the day"¦ It is much more stripped back in here isn't it"¦ It is, "¦ than the Pied à Terre, no cloths on the table and that type of thing. Yeah we're so close to each other, if we were both the same, we would simply be fighting for each other's business"¦ Yeah. "¦and it doesn't really make any business sense. We do get the same customers coming in to both restaurants, which is great, they maybe eat at Pied à Terre one day and then they might come over and eat with us, later in the week because it's something different. In the three years that you've been here then Marcus, how do you feel your food style's evolved in that period of time? I think slowly, over time, I've just got more confident with what I'm doing here. It has evolved and it is very natural. I still don't feel that I have a style; I still think I'm finding my style as time goes on.  That's still probably going to take another couple of years actually if I'm perfectly honest. In the beginning Shane said to me "It's going to take you a long time to find your style, it has to be very natural and it is going to take time" and I was sort of"¦ Often a lot of rubbish to get out of your system before you get there is that fair?. Yeah, yeah, you know, when we opened as well I was changing the menu, I was a total nightmare. There were five of us in the kitchen and I was changing the menu every couple of days because I just wasn't happy with what we were doing, you know, constantly striving to get better"¦ Trying too hard? Possibly. Possibly, yeah. I mean there was some dishes I remember and they were just, probably"¦Well, let's just say what was on the plate at certain times probably represented how I was thinking.  I was trying to do everything at once, trying to impress so much, and in the end I was just killing the guys, myself included"¦I was only 26 and as I said earlier I was a bit of a nightmare, but slowly you get more confidence don't you"¦ Yes you do. "¦and you just come to terms with the fact that you don't have to put the world and every other ingredient on the plate all at once. What dish on your current menu then best describes Marcus Eaves' cooking style as to where it is at the moment? That's a tricky one. I can't answer that; we're still trying to"¦ What's the most popular dish on the menu then? At the moment I'd say our most popular is"¦ that's a difficult one as well, it's so random with us because our clientele tends to change a lot. I mean we've got quite a lot of residential clients from around the area and a lot of regulars, we've got customers who can come in two/three times a week. Then you also get your bridge and tunnel brigade on a weekend who'll come over just for a tasting menu so I wouldn't say there's a specific dish they all sell pretty well. Okay. So tell us about your menus then. You obviously do a tasting menu, what other menus do you run? We do two tasting menus, one which is just a five course tasting which is £50 and then we do an eight course tasting for £62. They're available at lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday. We do a classic set lunch, which is a choice of two starters, two mains, two desserts.  That's two courses for £18 and three courses for £22.50. We also offer the a la carte menu where everything is individually priced. Great value isn't it? I've always say you can get some great, great competitive value in London as a diner at lunch. I think it's brilliant. One star Michelin at £22 for lunch, it's great for the consumer. Yeah at some places you can't get a steak and a pint for that can you? Exactly yeah, exactly. In the nicest possible way it's pub prices isn't it? Yeah that's it, it's pub prices. So how often do you change the menus? Seasonal or"¦ Well, I'd say every season we'd probably change our menu twice. Dishes coming on, dishes coming off, garnishes tweaked. Just talking to the suppliers really, making sure that if the, I don't know, the Romanesco's coming to an end we'll make sure that we actually get it off before the season finishes, so that we're only having it when it's at its peak. I'd say probably about eight times a year really, so it's quite constant. You know, one dish will come off, one dish goes on. Okay Marcus. In terms of inspiration as a chef, who do you look for, for inspiration? Who motivates you? If you look at other chefs who do you think inspires you? I think all the chefs that I've worked for definitely inspire me, I do look at what other chefs are doing now but I tend to think back more to what the dishes we used to do when I was training, do you know what I mean? I'm quite classically trained. I do like to put a modern twist on things but, I suppose the answer is people like Shane (Osborn), Claude (Bosi) Chefs like that. I'd say Martin (Burge) at Whatley because when I was at John Burton-Race (L'Ortolan) Martin was obviously running the kitchen there. Yeah. He's done very well as well at Whatley's hasn't he? Yeah he has, it looks fantastic. I haven't been there yet, I'd love to go. I was trying to go over New Year. Right. I ended up going to Edinburgh in the end but yeah I'd love to go over there. Where did you go in Edinburgh, anywhere special? I went to 21212 with Paul Kitching and Martin Wishart's Oh WOW. I stayed over there for, what? For two nights, went upto Gleneagles as well. Yeah, quite some visit.  Did you go to Andrew's (Fairlie)? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was awesome. It's an amazing place isn't it? Yeah it's lovely. The whole place is just; actually to be honest it's a bit surreal. You're going there, you see these little old ladies walking down the corridor with their little poodle and you've got the kids running around in their pyjamas because it was just like, almost like"¦ Being at home. Exactly, yeah. "¦ That's the success of a good hotel isn't it? If you feel you're at home. Yeah. Because sometimes you can go to a big - sorry to interrupt - sometimes you can go into a very posh hotels and feel like you're on show and that's not what it's about. You should feel like you can walk around in the bathrobe if that's what you want to do"¦ Yeah. No it's true. I'm told there is people who go up there, and it's a family tradition, year after year they go up there for two weeks over Christmas, New Year - that'd be fantastic wouldn't it? Yeah, no absolutely. So you've been here three years"¦ Yep. "¦obviously in January, the little red book's come out. Happy keeping a star obviously but is that the goal to maintain what you've got or is there a goal to push on or is it just to be commercial and to get happy customers? What does the future hold for you now? I think the first thing for us is we've, as I mentioned earlier, we've been building year after year and that's the hard thing now is that we've got to make sure we keep building on what we've done. First and foremost it's customers at the end of the day that are important, I've still got ten chefs to keep happy downstairs. Obviously the front of house staff as well, you've got to keep them motivated. I need to keep myself motivated also I just don't want to get bored. Yes that's a challange?. I don't want people to come in here and have boring food, or feel that it's become a little bit stagnant, so in general we all need to keep moving forward. Stars and rosettes and all that are brilliant but it isn't everything for me. I feel quite fortunate actually that I've realised it quite young, early on, that it's not all about accolades. Yes because a lot of people are chasing stars rosettes etc at a young age aren't they? Yes they are, but on the other hand without chefs chasing stars and wanting to make their mark, this industry wouldn't have so many great restaurants. I feel very lucky getting the star so early; it was our first time in the guide, we'd only been open for fourteen months. Any surprises for you in the Michelin Guide? I think, yeah"¦It's difficult because a lot of people have talked about Sat (Bains) being tipped and also Simon (Rogan) at L'Enclume"¦ Yeah and lots of people were saying Claude for a third as well and Marcus Wareing for a third. Yeah exactly and you just sort of"¦ It was quite a safe guide really wasn't it, what eventually came out? It was very much so and I don't know why that is, possibly to do with the transition of"¦It's funny because you think there's going to be a big change in the guide and then it's almost seems like"¦ Yeah but then it was Derek Bulmer's last year wasn't it so"¦ That's it so maybe it could be a lot of stuff going on next year, you just don't know do you, that's the funny thing about Michelin. We could all have our opinions but who knows what's going to happen next year. It's the guide that all you chefs look for isn't it. It is, yeah, it is. Well listen, Marcus, I wish you every success with the continued growth of L'Autre Pied. Thank you very, very much for seeing us today and lovely to meet you. Sure. Thank you very much indeed. No pleasure, absolute pleasure.
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th March 2011

Marcus Eaves, Head Chef L'Autre Pied, London