Andrew Fairlie at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd March 2011

Andrew Fairlie won the first ever Roux scholarship aged 20, allowing him to work at Les Pres d'Eugenie with Michel Guerard. This experience still greatly influences his cooking. In 2001 he returned to the UK and opened his Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at the Gleneagles Hotel.

In 2006 Andrew won the restaurant its second Michelin star. The restaurant was then voted one of the top ten ‘Greatest Hotel Restaurants’ by US Hotel Magazine, and in the same year Andrew was voted AA Chef’s Chef of the Year.

First and foremost lovely to see you again.

Thank you very much for coming.

If we can start by you telling us how many menus you currently run at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie?

At the moment we're running three menus, our à la carte menu, the tasting menu ,which we take from the à la carte with one or two dishes that we add, plus we've our  menu du marché as we term it"

Which is the menu I had last night.

You had that last night?  The menu du marché we introduced it last year and it's now working really well for us. It was a new addition, previously we used to just do the à la carte and the degustation but the marché, gave us the opportunity, if we wanted to, to change the menu every day, it's working really, really well. It took a little while to settle in. Our reasoning behind it was on the lines of  a du jour menu, but it really didn't work to start with, because once the menu was created, and we found it worked, it tended to stay for a week or two weeks and that simply wasn't the point or why we created it. So it took a wee bit of discipline  to get the marché running properly, and now I think we've got it just right. We do a lot of work with our suppliers in terms of what they have available for that day or the next. Now all our printing is done in house which of course makes it obviously much, much easier for us and ensure we can change thing must easier.

Andrew do use that menu as a sort of test bed for the à la carte? If something works really well on the Marche can it then go on the à la carte?

We can do, and there's a couple of dishes I think from the marché that have got onto the à la carte but I think the marché is something that is also very seasonal that the à la carte is very different.

How often do you change your menus?

At the moment very often.

Right how often is that.

As I say before we made the mistake in the beginning where we had the beautifully set menus and they were in leather binders and all the rest of it.

It becomes a bloody nightmare when you want to change it or very expensive when you want to change it.

Yes as well it was expense, it is restrictive. All of a sudden we're stuck with a menu for two months . In the beginning, it was kind of nice because it settled everything down really quickly, the consistency, everything was perfect, but then the frustrating thing was that if we wanted to change something then it had to be done word of mouth. Now it's very easy we can change the menu halfway through service, which we have done on a couple of occasions if we need to.

Andrew I hear you're actually shooting some of your game as well?

Yeah I had a great weekend with Albert and Michel (Roux) we all went up to Inverness and shot a few birds.

Fantastic.

So I think the Gavroche got about 150 duck and partridge and we took a few for Restaurant Andrew Fairlie here.

Fantastic. What's your thought process behind changing a dish? What makes you drop a dish and how do you go about thinking that needs to change?

It's different for both the à la carte and the marché, the à la carte we really need to have certain dishes that are going to attract customers, lobster, the scallops, the lamb, the venison. It's done loosely seasonally, those dishes are going to stay on the menu for a month, perhaps six weeks, du marché is something completely different. We. The change can be triggered perhaps buy a supplier saying, ""We've got roe deer it's coming into the very best of its season," or, "We've got lamb now," and it's definitely between England and Scotland, our lamb comes on much later so we always know from the late summer, through autumn, lamb is a must for us here at the restaurant, we have to have Lamb on the a la carte. Of course we'll be as seasonal as we possibly can with the garnish, we may simply word our à la carte "lamb" or "venison" or "salmon" but it just gives us the opportunity then to play around with the garnish as and when it changes. So that can change very frequently.

Do you involve the team in terms of menu ideas?

Now I do yes, very much so. In the beginning it was pretty much myself. We used to sit down and have a week of sleepness nights that every chef has when they come to a major menu change, and that was really, really hard because when we didn't have the facility to print in house I knew that once I put it to paper that was it and I had to go with it, now however I've promoted Stevie to head chef I've got Ian who's a young, really ambitious sous chef and it was a hard thing for me to actually hand over some responsibility. I think it was difficult for both Stevie and Ian because they kept getting their ideas and dishes they put forward rejected,but now they've really accepted their roles and their tasks. What is still important is, whatever happens, whatever, the changes they make, it has to be in my style I can't just abdicate all responsibility for for menu changes.

Absolutely yeah.

Do you have a repertoire now that you sort of work through, for example, every autumn do you look back and say, "This is a dish we did before we'll put it on again or we might tweak it," or is it continually new dishes for the restaurant?

It's continually new dishes which is great. Some people would say that it's stupid, and we make our lives harder than we need to, but I don't think so. I think now the food that we were serving here at the restaurant,  compared to nine years ago, has evolved quite dramatically. It probably was a little bit safer in the beginning, When we first started and we wrote a menu, if the food looked simple then the technique had to be absolutely spot on I instilled that to the team, when we opened." And now I think we're much looser and I think that's probably because, we're involving other people in writing menus, the food has become a lot looser and I think the guys now really want to see different things, they want to see different products. I just think the way the food has evolved is down to including some of the team ideas and working on menus together.

What about customer feedback? How important a driver is that in terms of your menu? Are you listening to what the customer thinks about it your dishes?

Very much so, in certain dishes, we get constant feedback from the front of house and that's imperative for us. If a dish is just not working then we'll change it, but I think customer tastes are changing. I remember on our first or second menu and trying to put calf's kidneys on and it just didn't sell and after a week or so we just had to take it off. I think now customers are becoming, much more adventurous which makes it much more exciting for us as chefs, but I think maybe the fact that we're more established now, nine years on, the customer's trust us and they have confidence in us.

Yes I think also if you come to a restaurant like this you want something that you're not going to have at home, veal sweetbreads it's great to see that on menus. You're in business how do you go about costing your menus? Do you have a formula that you use? Do you cost each menu dish individually or do you cost the menu as a whole?

No we take a rough ballpark figure. We know what we have to spend on each menu, we're very closely in touch with our suppliers, so we know what we're paying for things and then roughly we work it out. We a have a management meeting every month, Stevie has to present his figures to us. So he has all the information he needs, to do that, but to sit down and cost each individual dish I suppose we're in a privileged position not to have to do that.

But you know roughly what you've got to spend per dish and you know what your selling price is so you can work it out?

Yeah we don't just go into it blindly that would be financial suicide.

No absolutely ((laughs)). Now in terms of seasons then Andrew as a chef what is your favourite season and why?

Probably autumn for me I absolutely love it. I suppose there's two, I mean there's the"¦once you kind of leave winter and start to see some green coming through and your cooking becomes lighter I like that, that's a welcome change but for me autumn, especially where we are here in Scotland it's really exciting I love that time of year.

And you get some fabulous produce here in Scotland as well.

Yeah it's second to none, the shellfish is amazing, the game I mean we're spoilt for game and the wild mushrooms, the root vegetables, it's world class and again it kind of suits my style of cooking.  I like taking the kind of classical dishes and modernising them  hare à la royale, for example, you know, I love cooking that but presenting it in a very kind of modern way. So I mean as I say autumn for me is my favourite time for cooking.  

Well that's wonderful thank you very much.

Is that it?

We're all done.

That was painless.

Andrew as always you're a star thank you!

>>> Read: The Roux Scholarship winners: where are they now? (part 1)

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd March 2011

Andrew Fairlie at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie