From role models to signature dishes, we pick the brains of Andrew Du Bourg, owner and Head Chef of The Elderflower restaurant in Hampshire.
Have you always wanted to become a chef?
No, I have not always wanted to be a chef. Food has always been a big part of my life. From growing my own vegetables from a young age and baking with my mum and grandmother. I’ve always had this burning desire to succeed in life. I have been heavily influenced by film in terms of a career. This was my only insight into what it was like in curtain careers. By the later stages of my High School years was that I wanted to be a Stock Broker.
I applied for 2 week work experience to go to the city and get a good insight to what is involved. But what I got was 2 weeks of data inputting at a local accountants, not the insight I was expecting. I then decided to follow in my father’s foot steps and explore the world of computer programing.
But this was at the time of the start of the bubble and those who can do, those who can’t teach. I also had high expectation of being a pro footballers. I received a semi pro contract at the age of 17. But at this stage in my life realised this would not be enough. So I decided to hang my boots up and pursue a life as a Chef. I was fortunate to get on the highly sought after Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Specialised Chef Course.
Who are your role models?
My parents have always played a huge roll in making me the man I am today. I respect and aspire to the life style that they live. With regards to my career, I have been lucky enough to have worked with some great chefs. The first one I would like to mention is Chef David Bolland, once head lecture for the RACA Specialised Chef Course. He was the man who helped to mould some of the industries top chefs into the chefs they are today. So BIG THANKS.
The next great man to mention is Derek Quelch (former Exc Chef of the Goring Hotel) He helped to mould me into the Chef I am today. I learnt a great grounding and how to cook the properly.
Phil Howard opened me to a world I had dreamt of. What it was like to be the best. To work with the best ingredients available and prepared in away that was exciting as well as respectful of the incredible ingredients. He was also a chef that lead by example which I like to think that I implement in my style of leadership today.
The next chef has had the biggest influence on me. Pascal Aussignac. At Club Gascon I was at my happiest. I learnt to think outside the box. And due to his own training, he had a style that no one else had in the UK. I also have great respect and follow the BIG international chefs. Magnas Nilsson, Simon Rogan, Heston Blumenthal, Eric Chavot, Grant Achatz, Tom Aikens, Raymond Blanc, Rene Redzepi, Thomas Keller.
1 Getting my first Head Chef position at the age of 26 at Club Gascon
2 Opening my own restaurant with my wife at the age of 31. Having saved up ourselves and borrowed some from my parents and the rest from the bank. This was a huge learning curve.
3 3 AA Rosettes and Hampshire Chef of the Year 2016. This was a fantastic year for us all.
How would you describe your cooking?
Ever changing. We try to keep it as seasonal as we can. To respect the ingredients and to showcase and introduce our customers to new produce. But to put into a category then I would say, quintessentially British, with a sprinkling of French
Three favourite ingredients?
Elderflower, Solent Line caught sea bass and grouse
Your signature dish?
Close But No Cigar – chocolate & whisky mousse, coffee ice cream, vanilla milk & cigar smoked chocolate
This dish was inspired from my time at Club Gascon. Before the smoking ban and the financial resection. We would have the bankers coming to us for lunch. Lunch would then roll into the afternoon smoking cigars and Armagnac’s.
Any tips for aspiring chefs?
As a young chef and I like to think it is still with me today. To try and be better than the day before. I would also recommend to read as many books, industry texts and watch Cooking programs. Knowledge is everything. Don’t chase money, work hard and the money will come.
Soundtrack in the kitchen?
Kate Bush. If you play music in the kitchen its important to play the right type. Some can irritate which can make the atmosphere quite tense. Distract, but Kate Bush helps you to stay focussed.
Favourite restaurant (other than your own)?
Fat Duck. The best executed meal I’ve had to date.
Few things in the pipe line. No new restaurants because I think the industry has enough. They are hopefully ideas that can help improve the industry. I’m afraid I cant say any more.
Images courtesy of Christopher Pollard
PLUS: Find more chef interviews in our print Good Things magazine