After service with Adam Handling
Adam’s career history at the tender age of 25 is not for the faint hearted! Adam started his culinary training aged 16 as the first ever apprentice chef at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, moving steadily between some of the finest of UK kitchens such as Rhodes 24 and Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle. Furthermore, he became youngest-ever Head Chef within the Fairmont Group at Fairmont St Andrews going on to achieve two AA rosettes for the restaurant. Wait, it doesn’t stop there! Last year saw him reach the finals of MasterChef; The Professionals and most recently the accolade of British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year to his portfolio of successes to date.
Currently Head Chef at the Caxton Grill in St James’s Park where he leads a team of 22, Adam is enthusiastically developing the restaurant’s reputation as one of the top places to eat in Westminster, with a menu designed to inspire and excite through inventive dishes that offer an ‘unexpected harmony’.
At only 25 years of age, Adam is inspiringly ambitious and a rapidly rising talent to watch. We meet the young super-chef and find out what’s behind his success…
You’ve already worked in some of the UK’s greatest kitchens at a very young age, who is your biggest inspiration?
When I was younger Tom Aikens was my inspiration, nowadays though Sat Bains and Simon Rogan are my biggest inspirations. Simon because I love his rustic approach and use of fabulous ingredients, and Sat Bains because of his Asian influences in his dishes, in fact it was because of Sat that I spent in a year in Asia.
What/who inspires your style of cooking?
I would definitely say that Sat Bains inspires my cooking, I love his whole approach to food that really showcases incredible precision and a sheer understanding of flavour.
What’s the best food tip you’ve ever been given?
I was told to “never put pepper near anything from the sea”. I also have my own tip of “smile in the kitchen or get out” – cooking should be fun so smile whilst you’re doing it!
What’s your food ethos?
Every time I create a new menu, my the ethos changes. For example my last menu was designed to take diners on a journey of “why” and “‘how” through unquantified plating served on big 12 inch white plates. But the new menu that I have just introduced is centred around flavour – serving very rustic food with bags of flavour, on very rustic crockery. So the whole ethos has shifted, right through to the way the dishes are presented.
What’s the most underrated ingredient?
Celeriac – I love it because it’s so versatile and you can do so much with it, you can bake it, purée it, soup it and so on.
What do you cook at home?
One-pot wonders – basically anything can cook in one pot, they are easy create minimal washing up! I really love cooking curries such as Indian or Japanese in this way
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Chocolate! My favourite is William Curley’s in Sloane Square, I go there all the time!
Do you have a favourite cookbook?
Yes, I love the Eleven Madison Park cookbook, it’s beautiful. And I really like Sat Bain’s one as well; ‘Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian’, there aren’t tonnes of recipes but instead he has chosen a few that demonstrate extremely knowledge and have detailed stories behind.
What’s the one thing you must have in your fridge or store cupboard (at home)?
Smoked salmon, I literally eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner when I am at home!
Nowadays plenty of people are trying to replicate restaurant food at home, what advice would you give them?
I would definitely encourage people to be a bit adventurous and to have fun – break away from the recipe you are following a bit and be a bit experimental, and if you make a mistake then don’t be tough on yourself, just learn from it and don’t do it again!
What do you think of London’s restaurant scene? And what are the biggest challenges do you think?
The London restaurant scene is incredible; you can literally get any type of food at any time of the day. This does of course mean though that it is harder to remain unique and to offer diners something new. Every time one restaurant shuts down, 5 more open, so it’s vital to try and keep ahead of the trends, but more so, it’s really important to always try and stay true to yourself.
Tell us a little bit about Caxton Grill, signature dishes, style?
We have just introduced a new menu that’s big on flavour, served in a very laid back style, but with flavours that are designed to surprise diners.
With some strong award titles under your belt already, what does the future hold?
I would love to open my own restaurant in London within the next three years. Of course I would be over the moon to be awarded a star, but what’s more important to me is that my diners continue to love my food and that my restaurant is always busy and buzzing.
Check out more on Adam Handling here.