'I was born at the right time - I learned to pick and choose between classic and modern schools of thought'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

David Bush is the head chef at The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn.

Born and bred in Essex, David started his career working at a hotel in Brentwood - the Mary Green manor - while he trained at college and for another four years afterwards.

During that time, it progressed from 1 AA-Rosette to 5, but, sensing that his team members all wanted to go their separate ways, he accepted a friend's recommendation and successfully applied for a position at The House of Commons.

There, he found a good work-life balance and more opportunity for progression than in his previous role.

"They really looked after us, you got a great pension, 52 days off a year, Monday-Friday." 

With 13 different kitchens in the building, he worked his way through all of them in his time there.

Grilled Cornish Plaice, black olive crumb, lardo,
pomme soufflé, squash, black olive caramel

'Every Wednesday there would have to be a roast dinner after the PMQs'

"It was a very interesting place to work, it took me 12 years to get the itch to move on but during my time there, it was crazy." 

The chef loved the added excitment of interacting with policy and lawmakers on a day-to-day, and essentially being a part of history. He worked at the HoC when the Queen Mother died, a time he describes as "mad." 

"It's quite a weird place, because once you'd got your security clearance you could just walk down the corridors, and you're walking past all the MPs, royals and whoever is in at the time." 

"Every Wednesday there would have to be a roast dinner after the PMQs, but while you were setting up you'd be watching them, two minutes down on the road doing the PMQs so you kept up to date quite well." 

As one would expect, they got their fair share of strange requests. 

"Sometimes it wasn't the MPs, it would be their secretaries that would come and grab you in the corridors and just say: 'a certain MP doesn't like cabbage on a Wednesday', so we'd have to change." 

Finally feeling poised for change, David decided to move on to a sous-chef position at The Lincoln's Inn and took on the role of head chef when he predecessor left. 

Across the old hall, the old court room, MCR restaurant & garden parties on the lawn - the team at The Lincoln's Inn have enough to keep themselves busy. 

Pressed pork belly, Royal Gala purée, cultivated kale, mustard jus 

He and his 17 team of core chefs - supplemented with agency staff when needed - feed 130 staff a day as well as lunch for barristers and people who work at the inn (between 20 and 160 covers) and private functions for between 20 to 200 people in the great hall. 

"With all the venues open, we can be doing up to 1000 covers, easy," he said. 

The food at The Lincoln's Inn revolves around a very close relationship with suppliers - with whom David keeps updated on what produce is available via a WhatsApp group (at the time of our visit, this includes blood orange, Yorkshire rhubarb, Cornish lemon sole and East Anglia pork, he tells us).

Mixing modern and classic techniques, the chef believes he has found his sweet spot - allowing room for experimentation, but knowing when to find inherited wisdom.

"There are two schools of thought for me. I think I grew up in the right time, because you've got some younger people who'll only want to use the Cliftons or the new modern technology and the old school chefs that just want to put everything through the ovens." 

"When I came about, Heston was just coming onto the big scene and getting known and I just about got to see both sides of things - I got the classic side and the modern side and now I can pick and choose which I think are correct and the best way to go." 

Ingredients on the menu at The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn

'If the staff have got input into the menus, they'll put more time and effort into the food.'

His own style is seasonal, ingredient-led, "letting it fall on the plate, not too precise & neat, just fallen." 

In his free time, David loves to slow cook large joints of meat on his new green egg, finding inspiration in the world's finest establishments, from The French Laundry in California to Alinea in Chicago, and closer to home, The Fat Duck, L'Enclume, Stark, et al. 

"I was lucky to marry a chef that's really into food," he smiled.

David loves to encourage creativity in his team, taking a back foot when it comes to menu design. "Each week they'll always surprise me and come up with something great." 

His role is primarily oversight, and though he has final say on dishes, he believes in nurturing their ability to create. 

"I always feel that if the staff have got input into the menus, they'll put more time and effort into the food and they're learning what they want to do as well." 

An annual awards of excellence graduate, an MCA finalist, the winner of the London Chef of the Year, Craft Guild Chef of the Year, gold medallist at Hotelympia - he now wants to pass on the mantle and train younger chefs to take part in competitions of their own. 

Now that the renovation work is done and dusted - which took several years and a £30 million investment - he hopes that the business will grow and that this will allow them to recruit more commis. 

"But it's early days, we're just trying to see yet." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 17th March 2020

'I was born at the right time - I learned to pick and choose between classic and modern schools of thought'