Meet The Chef: Antony Ely

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We chat with Antony Ely, recently appointed Head Chef The Rectory Hotel and The Potting Shed in Crudwell, Wiltshire for a taste of his ‘simple, fresh, amazing’ cooking style.

You’ve worked in numerous kitchens across the years – do you have any favourite work places?
The kitchen at The Clarence in Dublin was a great experience for me. It was my first Head Chef position that I ever took and we managed to take it from being an underperforming restaurant to being talk of the town in the space of a couple of years! It was also a lot of fun because it was owned by U2 meaning that It was always full of actors, models and the who’s who of Dublin – lots of glitz & glam!

What inspired you to become a chef? Where did you train?
It has to be my mum, who was a fantastic cook. Her mother was also a great cook and an inspiration to me. It all started when I was young and used to help mum with the Sunday lunch – especially when it was raining and I couldn’t get outside on my bike!

I trained at two colleges: Firstly, I studied at Banbury (same as Gordon Ramsey) and then did my 2nd year in Shrewsbury. From there I went to The Royal Crescent in Bath & Lords of the Manor to continue my training in professional kitchens.

What’s next on the cards?
Where do I begin! At the moment, I am working on developing & fine tuning The Potting Shed Menu – which we have received great feedback on so far. The bigger project for me is definitely at The Rectory Hotel where we have done a full overhaul of the menu and are working hard to perfect each dish.

Do you have any culinary heroes?
Phil Howard. He is known as the ‘chef’s chef’ and for very good reason. He has a fantastic palate and is a fantastic chef. Not only that but he is a genuinely nice guy to work for.

Describe your cooking philosophy in three words
Simple, fresh, amazing!

What food takes you back to childhood?
It’s got to be boiled bacon, pease pudding and boiled carrots. We used to eat this as a family every Saturday lunch time and it made for a delicious, hearty meal… a real winter warmer!

What’s your favourite autumnal dish?
Pappardelle of braised hare with root veg. We use homemade pasta and the hare is marinated in plenty of red wine and then braised. It’s a really gutsy dish made fresh with parsley. I used to cook this when I was at Bibery Court and it always recieved a lot of nice feedback, it really packs a punch.

Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
You have to work hard and keep at it. I believe that you can teach anyone to cook but you can’t teach people to have a good work ethic. Perseverance is really important for a chef starting out, and you must have a passion for food. It’s very hard work and not very well paid in the beginning so the passion for food has to be there.

Commitment is important and you have to have an inquisitive mind to keep learning new things. Above all else, cook from the heart!

Name us three of your favourite restaurants
1 Chez Bruce – a true classic
2 Akelarre in San Sebastian for the location
3 The Gannet in Glasgow – a friend’s restaurant and truly blew me away!

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