Name: Andrew Birch
Current Position: Executive Chef at Lainston House Hotel in Winchester.
Tell us about your current role:
Lainston has several food outlets; I work with a team of 21 chefs and KP’s to keep the food side of the operation running as smoothly as possible. We have a great kitchen garden, a cookery school and a chef’s table.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
Where did you train to cook?
I went to Neath catering college in South Wales to do my NVQ 1 and 2. I then did NVQ level 3 at Stratford upon Avon.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
All of our ingredients are quality led. At Lainston we just cook food that works for where we are and the guests that come to us. It’s not complex food at all.
Do you have a “signature dish”, or a favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
Over the years we do replicate dishes but they will always change slightly whether it be the plating or a new technique or to remove or add something. I love cooking fish and shellfish.
Do you have a favourite ingredient?
Fresh ceps, foie gras, asparagus and morels.
Do you have a favourite local supplier?
They are not local but Flying Fish stand out as one of my favourites, their fish is amazing.
Is there another chef you admire?
Just any chef that is doing top quality food and thinking of their guest.
Who is the best chef you’ve worked with and why?
Matthew Tomkinson at the Montague Arms. He never over-complicated any of his food.
What is the one piece of kitchen equipment you could not live without?
What is the best restaurant you have eaten at?
Per Se Restaurant in New York.
Should customers be made to pay for late cancellations?
What frustrates you most about customers?
Some customers bring challenges to what we do I think the main one is when people surprise you with an allergen or dislike.
What is your most awkward/demanding customer experience?
We had a company who had a 5 day exclusive use for 50 guests and they wanted a whole vegan menu, that was challenging and took the whole team out of their comfort zone. But it was also nice to do something different.
Do you look at TripAdvisor reviews?
What career advice would you give to your 15-year old self?
Go and work in a great property for a great chef and just learn your trade.
What would be your “last request” dish?
I love the food at Hakasan so it would be there.
What is your favourite cook book?
I love The Square cook book by Phillip Howard.
How do you use social media to help you in your job?
Just by trying to stay relevant in the industry. Putting pictures on it and engaging in conversations. Following suppliers to see what is at its best.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Recruiting staff and mental health issues.
What’s the worst kitchen injury you’ve had?
I cut through the end of my finger on a tin of tomatoes, it was hanging off!
What is your guilty pleasure?
Fish and chips with curry sauce.
And finally, what is your career ambition?
To be the best that I can be and hopefully have my own place one day.