Spotlight On……….Our Chefs

26 Apr

Just recently we’ve been thinking that, through our blogs and from following the team on Twitter, hopefully you’re getting to know us all pretty well. We did realise though that there are some very important grapes in the bunch that you might not be quite so familiar with…….. our chefs!

Being the busy people that they are, our chefs don’t always have the time to stay on top of social media or take pictures of all the amazing food they make – they trust us to do that and then share them with you all……it doesn’t seem fair, though, that you don’t get to know the people behind the delicious creations! So somehow – in between their prepping and cooking and menu development – I managed to pin down Purple Grape’s Co- Director and Head of Food Development, Freddie Benjamin, and our Head Chef, Andy Grimwood, and ask them a few questions:

Freddie came to London & started his career over 22 years ago, working in some of London’s top hotels and restaurants, including the Savoy, where he learnt his skill for detail and creativity. He went on to work for a small canapé company called Canapeum, which had only 2 staff when he joined. Using his knowledge and expertise, Freddie began to grow the company – specializing in creative canapés. When Freddie left Canapeum in 2008, there were approximately 100 employees. Luckily for us, Freddie was in search of new challenges and had left in order to found Purple Grape with @PGEmily!

 Andy began his career, at the age of 17, with Baron Hotels and leisure services, working in both London and Brighton.  Three years of working as a casual chef  in various London restaurants followed, notably Le Point de la Tour and Queen’s Gate, gaining fine dining experience. Turning his attention to contract catering, Andy began to work at venues such as Royal Ascot, Windsor, Aintree, Cheltenham, Wimbledon and Henley; a few years later he was offered the Sous chef position at the Royal Albert Hall and was then was promoted to Head chef 4 months into this contract. After 5 years, Andy took the position of Head of Development for a prestigious London canapé and outside caterer (where his main achievement was helping to diversify the company – taking them into first and business class air line meals). A further 5 years were then spent at the Kennington Oval Cricket ground developing a very busy conference centre and International sports ground before Andy joined the team at Purple Grape. 

Alice: So, how did you get into the industry? Did you always want to be a chef’?

Freddie: I actually was unsure what career path I wanted to take when I left school,  I decided to attend catering college for a year and ended up enjoying it so much that I decided to point my career in that direction.

Andy: My parents were terrible cooks so I wanted to learn for myself. I went to college, found I had a flair for it so made it my profession (I wish I could turn back time)!

Alice: It’s a good job we know you’re only joking Andy! Seriously though, since we know you love it, what’s the best thing about your job?

Freddie: I would say it’s the creative side….

Andy: Definitely, the food industry is forever changing there is always something new to learn. I can be creative, innovative and show off!

Alice: Speaking of always changing, since Purple Grape is big on seasonality, what’s your favourite season for food and why?

Freddie: Regarding seasonality I don’t really have a favourite as I would have to maintain the same standard and quality whichever season it may be.

Andy: Spring! I love spring lamb, asparagus, artichokes fiddleheads, morels peas, Jersey Royals ….mmmm birds are singing the sky is blue.

Alice: I might have to agree with you there Andy…..I do love fresh, snappy spring asparagus! Do you have a favourite dish or canapé to make?

Freddie: I don’t really have one as I am always looking to change and improve what I do

Andy: I could tell you but then I would have to kill you!

Alice: Well we won’t push you on that one then! Just so you know, I’m very keen on the Ash rolled goats’ curd on gingerbread……you know, in case you ever feel like making a few extra……..(hey, it’s worth a try!). In fact, I’m quite partial to all of our canapes, where do you find your inspiration for the Purple Grape menus?

Freddie: I may get inspiration from things I see on a day to day basis or other work colleagues

Andy: The internet is a wonderful thing!

Alice: I can agree there – I’m always looking up new recipes for my home cooking attempts! Do you cook a lot at home or do you like take a break and go out to let someone else cook for you for a change?

Freddie: I always try and cook at home but occasionally I will go out to restaurants.

Andy: Both, it’s good to try new dishes at home since I am my best critic, but it’s also good to go out – reminds me how good a cook I am.

Alice: Well, since I can’t have you cook for me every day, spill the beans on some insider tips; where is your favourite restaurant and what would you recommend to eat there?

Freddie: My Favourite restaurant is Zuma in Knightsbridge (modern, authentic Japanese food), you should try the roasted lobster with green chilli and garlic harjiso butter!

Andy: Osteria francescana in Modena, Italy, chef Massimo Bottura is Geniale! (Note from Alice here – that’s ingenious for those of us who’s Italian is maybe a bit rusty!) I’d definitely have the tasting menu….

Alice: Thanks guys, I’ll definitely check out Zuma and………well…… a food lover, it wouldn’t be *entirely* wrong to base my next holiday location purely on a restaurant recommendation………………would it?

Freddie had to dash off at this point, but Andy had time for one last, very quick, question:

Alice: Ok, finally; what would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

Andy: If I weren’t a chef hmm I would be a clairvoyant…………………… no an astronaut…………. no wait maybe a pilchard!

Seriously; I don’t know. Although when I was a wee lad I wanted to be a vet; funny I wanted to help animals – now I cut them up and cook them!

…And with that, our chefs are back off to work, researching, developing and creating the tasty treats that we proudly serve to admiring clients on a daily basis. As for me, I’m off to see if I can maybe book a table at Zuma…………….and maybe that holiday to Italy!