Gary Foulkes has an impressive past, having worked for John Campbell, Gary Rhodes, and at Aubergine before serving as head chef at the two Michelin starred restaurant The Square in Mayfair.
Now he’s the executive chef of Angler and the newly-opened Chop House at the South Place Hotel. We caught up with him to discuss how he put together the menu, his love of seasonal dishes, and why it’s important for chefs to still be able to learn a thing or two from the boss if you’re going to keep a well-staffed kitchen.
How did you build the menu for the South Place Chop House?
We’re in the east end of London and that’s where chop houses traditionally were, serving a lot of meat that you’d get cooked on grills, so we’ve taken this concept and changed it for the modern day. I wanted to keep it as a very British affair which means we’ve got classic desserts like a knickerbocker glory and sticky toffee pudding, things that people can relate to.
On the grill we’ve got different cuts of meat in different sizes, from a 200g rib-eye steak, to a fillet or a chateaubriand for two with a selection of different sauces and butters to choose from. There’s a number of London lagers on our list, too, which our bar manager is very keen to feature, and beer from east end breweries.
As the theme of the Chop House is to maintain a very British affair, do you have a focus on sourcing from local suppliers?
I like to source as many ingredients as I can from local suppliers. We’re surrounded by beautiful produce in this country, you just need to go out and find it. We’ve got fabulous fruit, especially berries, and meat. All the fish I use up in Angler is from Cornwall, apart from the tuna, but the turbot, the cod… it’s stunning fish and it’s seasonal. In the old days people had a menu that was on all year round come rain or shine, but that’s not how I like to work. I like to adjust and change with the season.
And it’s the same with game: grouse has just started, which we’re going to put on the menu shortly, then we’ll get mallard in September and there’ll be woodcocks later in the season on the specials menu which we’ll constantly change depending on availability.
The Chop House menu has foraged wild garlic as an ingredient in one of the dishes – is this a method of sourcing you intend on keeping up?
I went and picked a lot of wild garlic in the season because I knew where it was and it’s an enjoyable thing to do. A lot of chefs like to forage because you’re going to get something natural and cook it into something delicious. Our garlic has a very short season in the UK but then there’s elderflower, elderberries and nettles, so throughout the whole year there are lots of different things you can collect that can be used on menus, which is something that I’m keen to do.
What are the main challenges facing executive chefs in the industry today and how can you tackle them?
Staffing is a huge challenge at the moment because there are so many restaurants and top chefs people can go and work for. The days of having to work in a Michelin starred restaurant to learn anything are long gone as there are fabulous establishments you can go to all over the country to learn from. This is great – but doesn’t help when you need chefs. That’s why it’s important that people see they’ll be in a nice environment to work in, that it’s full of great people, and that you’re going to teach them new things, as it means chefs will be more likely to stay. A lot of becoming a successful chef is about having desire and passion, also ability, but desire is the main thing people need.
Photos courtesy of Chop House at the South Place Hotel