Warren Geraghty, group executive chef, Galvins

The Staff Canteen

Introduced to the world of Michelin cooking by Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico, Warren Geraghty, group executive chef of Galvins, has not been short of exceptional mentors since he began as a young chef.

He’s worked with Marco Pierre White, Richard Neat and of course the Galvin brothers Jeff and Chris, who he has spent 20 years of his career with on and off. He became group executive chef of Galvins four years ago and he believes he has the best job in London!

The Staff Canteen spoke to Warren about his relationship with the Galvins, his current role and his obsession with social media.

Bistrot de Luxe bar
Bistrot de Luxe bar

You’ve spent a large part of your career with Jeff and Chris Galvin but what made you want to get into the hospitality industry in the first place?

I actually wanted to be in the army but my dad wouldn’t sign my papers, he said I had to get a trade! I’d been washing up in a little restaurant so I figured I’d do that for a couple of years and then join the army. But then after a couple of years I realised I quite liked it so I carried on with it – that’s how I ended up in the trade.

What got you hooked on the industry?

Kitchens aren’t that different to being in the military! There’s a good sense of rank and discipline. I think a lot of chefs discover they have a creative side when they start cooking which they probably didn’t realise they had before they started. For me I was lucky, I grew up close to the sea and I would see whole fish come in to the kitchen on a morning, then the lambs would arrive and go to the butchery and get prepped – I found it all very exciting. I knew I could never do something Monday to Friday, sitting at a desk and typing.

Smoked Eel, Warren Geraghty
smoked eel  

I knew I needed to do something that kept changing and kept me interested all the time. You get a bit addicted to the adrenaline, once you experience the high of service and the rush when it’s all going well, if you like it then it’s something you become addicted to quite quickly. I also realised it would afford me a lifestyle I couldn’t of had before - I could move to London, I wanted to travel the world and that was going to allow me to do it. I was lucky to stumble on something I do enjoy.

When did you meet Jeff and Chris Galvin?

I was 19 when I met Jeff, I was a second commis at Chez Nico which was a two-Michelin star at the time. Jeff was senior chef de partie on the larder and he was my boss so that’s how we met. I did three years there and he nursed me through it all, taught me the sections and we became friends. Between Chris and Jeff there weren’t many chefs in the industry they didn’t know and they gave me the connections. It was Jeff who introduced me to Marco and it was Chris who suggested I work for Richard Neat at Pied a Terre, so they’ve always been there.

You’ve spent 20 years on and off working with the Galvins, what kept you coming back?

John Dory
John Dory

They’ve both become my mentors really. You get the best of both worlds because you’ve got Chris who is a father figure to me, he keeps me on the straight and narrow and if there is something he’s not happy with he’s quick to tell me.

Then Jeff is a great person to work alongside, he’s one of the most talented cooks I’ve ever worked with. When you respect somebody as much as Chris and Jeff are respected in the industry it’s a bit of a no brainer when they offer you an opportunity. I’ve worked with some amazing chefs, I spent five years with Richard Neat who was also a great mentor, but I’ve always gone back to Jeff and Chris when I wasn’t sure what to do next or I needed some advice.

You’re now group executive chef for Galvins, how different is this role to what you are used to and was it difficult to adjust?

It’s incredibly difficult to adjust. The pressures are more but they are a lot different. In the kitchen it’s an immediate pressure, at 6pm you know what’s coming, it’s going to be service and no matter what happens at 11pm it’s over. You have to make sure you get it right between those hours. Now it’s a continual pressure, there’s a lot more planning involved and I have to think ahead about what I have to get done, deadlines I’ve got to meet and new projects we’ve got going on. It’s completely different and actually I like to retreat to the kitchen to get back to normality, it’s my little cave where I go and hide for a couple of days.

La Chapelle
La Chapelle

Do you miss being in the kitchen every day?

Definitely, a 100%, the kitchen is where I love to be - in an ideal world I could just stay in the kitchen and do my stuff but what I’m doing now is a great challenge and I enjoy it. I have a 100 chefs I work with, seven head chefs on a one on one basis and I can one day be cooking in a café then the next day cooking Michelin star food in the La Chapelle. Or working with a pastry chef at Windows then up in Scotland looking up our latest fisherman we’ve got on board bringing in our wonderful seafood.

So, it’s really diverse and it means I can cook on many different levels and look at dishes on many different levels. I love the buzz of the projects we do from a pop up, to a festival or opening a new restaurant. There’s always something for me to get my teeth into and it’s all based around cooking which I love!

Top 5 restaurant meals:                                  L’ami Jean, Paris                                                   Wilks, Bristol Bras                                               Lagioule Venkeles, Amsterdam                 Steirereck Restaurant, Vienna                                                                                                                             Top 5 comfort food:                                          Roast chicken with all the trimmings             Chilli con carne                                                         Scotch eggs                                                                 Prawn sandwich                                                       Sticky toffee pudding

Do you find it difficult dropping in and out of the different kitchens and having a rapport with the different brigades?

It was but I think I’ve become quite adept at it. The hardest thing is being on the pass, it takes me about 15 minutes to adjust to what pass I’m on! So where the plates are kept, which way the checks go on and who to call if I want to speak to someone.

But I’ve been hopping on and off the passes for four years now so I’m used to it and I like it. When you are in the same kitchen all the time you don’t keep yourself as alive as you should. As for the brigades, a lot of our head chefs have come up through the ranks and have been with us for years. You have to respect that they are head chefs and it’s their kitchen, they don’t want to be told what to do but there does have to be a level of controlling what we are and who we are as a company. Once you get that mutual understanding and respect it works very well.

So what’s your cooking style? What do you like cooking and which ingredients do you enjoy working with?

I’m really ingredient led and I love fresh ingredients. We follow all the boats on Twitter so if I see there’s been a big landing of cuttlefish or squid, I’m the first one to say ‘let’s get 30/40 kilo and let’s do this or that with it’. I’m a carnivore, I’m really into meat and fish and I love working with them. We do a lot of work with our butchers as well, looking at our aging process and I’m heavily involved in the workings of that. Like most chefs I love seeing the fresh, seasonal produce come in and the fact I’ve worked in different parts of the world where it’s not always easy to get that incredible produce. In London we are so spoilt, there is literally nothing we want but can’t have.

Short rib of beef
Short rib of beef

You mentioned you follow the boats on Twitter, is social media something you enjoy being a part of?

I love it, I think it’s incredible. I’m obsessed with social media – I don’t spend that much time tweeting myself but the information you can glean is quite amazing and the day boats are a good example. We know what they are catching up in Peterhead or down in Brixham, what the market is like and whether the price of something is quite sensitive, it’s really helpful.

You published West: The Cookbook in 2009, would you ever look at writing another book?

Anyone who has done a cookbook will tell you it’s ten times more work than you could ever imagine. Writing the book is the easy part – it’s the continual editing and practising of recipes, the fine tuning, it’s just a phenomenal amount of work. But obviously when you finish it, it’s a great thing to have achieved. I think one day it would be something I could do with Chris and Jeff, we have some new projects coming up which might lend themselves to that.

When you get a minute to yourself, where do you eat and what do you like to eat?

I’ve fallen into the category that everyone seems to go in now, so I like small plates. I’m not a big eater even though I’m 6”3 and 17st, I like to just graze which I guess Japanese dining lends itself to. Ever since I was in Vancouver I have had a real love of Japanese food because it’s such a big influence over there. But I also really like just simple, really great ingredients – places like the Beagle in Hoxton. They have lovely ingredients and a fantastic Argentine grill and they just cook it perfectly, with a nice little sauce, something simple on the side and that’s me very happy.

So where do you see yourself in the future?

I’m very happy where I am. Chris, Jeff and I have got plans to do something else in the future which is not too far off. Everyone tells me that 40 to 50 is when you make your money and make your mark, I’ve just crossed the 40 border so I guess the next five years are the important ones. I think I’ve got one of the best jobs in London so I’m not sure why I would want to pack it in!

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 23rd April 2015

Warren Geraghty, group executive chef, Galvins