Gavin Edney Interview
Gavin Edney: Elder Statesman
The Elder restaurant opened its doors to the public on September 11th. A place to enjoy authentic, honest and timeless British cooking, we spoke to Head Chef, Gavin Edney, about his love for using Britain’s natural larder to every seasonal dish, how his Cornish roots have influenced his cooking (not to mention working with the likes of Gordon Ramsay), and his plans for the future.
Many congratulations on the opening of ’The Elder’, as Head Chef, what is the ethos of the restaurant?
Thank you so much! It’s great to be open. I’d say our ethos is to cook tasty food with great ingredients. Our focus is on wild food, whether it be game from Mike’s (Mike Robinson, owner of The Elder) larder (Owl Barn Larder), line caught fish from dayboats in Cornwall, or even doing our own foraging in and around Wiltshire. We’re currently using carrot seeds, wild greengages, damsons and elderberries that we foraged ourselves on the menu.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I focus on taste not trends. My dishes are all about the flavour of the food and then we figure out how to make it look good. I spent a lot of my career being classically trained and so that of course plays a huge part in my style. I’m influenced by classic techniques and then use a modern approach when developing dishes. All in all, I source the best ingredients I can and cook them in the best way I know how.
As a Cornishman, does the menu take a lot of influences from your west country roots?
Yes, absolutely. There’s a lot on the menu that’s very personal to where I come from. The mussels we use are from the Fowey River which I crossed every day to go to school and then to work on my first job. The seaweed is from Falmouth where I spent a lot of time growing up. Our fish is sourced from Cornwall as is our duck and beef. I was surrounded by the most fantastic produce growing up, I was very lucky indeed.
How much influence does the location and the history of the property have on your menu choice?
Well of course Somerset and Wiltshire produces sensational ingredients which has huge influence on the menu. In terms of the history of Bath, we have the famous Bath Bun on the menu which we serve with spiced butter. You can order it on the terrace or at the bar but if you dine with us in the main dining rooms we serve it as a ‘last bite’ when guests receive their bill.
So, with Autumn upon us what can we expect to see on the menu?
Autumn is a really great time of year for produce. We’re using gorgeous woodland mushrooms, autumnal squashes, an abundance of game such as hare, fallow deer, muntjac deer and game birds such as partridge, and mallard.
What was it about Mike Robinson’s vision for his restaurants that interested you?
I love Mike’s enthusiasm and passion for wild food. He has such a depth of knowledge for anything and everything outdoors which is truly inspirational and so it was easy to get excited about the concept of The Woodsman and The Elder. We’ve been working together 2017 and it’s awesome to see both restaurants finally open.
Did growing up on fishing boats as a child in Cornwall, influence your decision to become a Chef?
Well, I can’t claim I grew up on fishing boats but I loved fishing and being on the water as a kid. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it was that I decided to become a chef but being surrounded by such fantastic produce every day and eating so well couldn’t have hurt.
You’ve worked under Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s, the Galvins at their restaurants and André Garrett at Cliveden. What have you taken away from each of these establishments and how have they developed your style?
I’ve taken something different from each chef I’ve worked for. You learn how they run their kitchens, their style and technique when it comes to cooking. I feel lucky to have worked with so many knowledgeable and talented chefs in my career. The nice thing about being a Head Chef is that it’s now up to me on how I want things prepared. Every chef has his/her preferred way of doing things be it the way stocks are made, sauces are finished, pasta is rolled etc. It’s nice to be able to make it my own now. You pick and choose what you like from each person and create something that belongs to you.
"My dishes are all about the flavour of the food and then we figure out how to make it look good. I spent a lot of my career being classically trained and so that of course plays a huge part in my style".
2-8 South Parade | Bath | BA2 4AB
Tel: 01225 530616
All images courtesy of Sarah Farnsworth
The pandemic has given all of us opportunity to learn new things. Are there any new dishes, flavour combinations or ingredients you have discovered (or rediscovered) during lockdown?
I have to say, lockdown was my time to be with family and I was able to fully focus on them rather than menu planning. We cooked some great stuff together as a family. Lots of outdoor cooking in the garden, great BBQs and pizza making with my baby daughter.
You are no stranger to entering competitions, such as the Roux Scholarship and National Chef of the Year. Do you believe entering these competitions sharpens you skills, gives you ideas and challenges yourself?
Absolutely, competitions keep you sharp and make you push harder. It’s a great opportunity to cook up against people at a very high level and a good indicator on where you are in your career. What’s more is that you are judged by people you have looked up to your entire career. It’s a great networking opportunity and a real privilege to cook for them.
Finally, if you were PM for the day, what policy would you change, or implement, In order to help the Hospitality industry?
I definitely wouldn’t trust my decisions to run the country but I would most definitely try to do something to help British dairy farmers get a fair price for their dairy. They are often overlooked.