The AHC Family – Welcome to Andres Garcia
Our incredibly-talented Andres Garcia, Head Chef at Rowhill Grange in Kent, joined The AHC in July. We caught up with him to delve a little deeper into his career, inspirations, background & plans for all things food and beverage here at Rowhill.
What inspired you to become a Chef?
Since my early teens, cooking was all I wanted to do. Growing up, food was a big part of our family life. As a young chef, and still to this day, I viewed cookery books as secret information and I had to have them all. From the beginning, I enjoyed the ability & potential to bring happiness and nostalgia through food.
What skills / qualities do you need to become a chef?
Passion, passion, passion. This career is not for the faint hearted, especially if you are in it for the long haul. As long as you enjoy what you do, even on those tough days, it doesn’t feel like work.
How would you describe your cooking style / philosophy?
I’m a very firm believer of utilising everything, partly to minimise waste, but especially because I see that waste as a loss of flavour. I am always looking for ways to maximise flavour and sometimes that means allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
Ahh, it changes like the wind, or a better way to put it: It changes with the seasons. Each season I find a new ingredient or method I get obsessed with until the next one comes along. Most recently, I love using wild garlic and black garlic. At the moment, I’ve caught the pickling bug, playing around with lots of different pickling and preserving ideas. Currently we are preserving our own lemons which features on our current menu. The team and I picked some rhubarb from one of the gardens within the grounds of Rowhill Grange, which are pickling to feature on our autumn menu. Our next project will be our own apple cider vinegar.
Who are your favourite local suppliers and what do they provide you with?
Where my career had predominantly been based in London, I am only just beginning to find out what is available on Rowhill’s doorstep. Maybe I am a bit biased, but we are at the planning stages of what we can grow and produce ourselves within the grounds of Rowhill Grange, to utilise on our menus as well as inspire our staff and guests. We currently have our own bees producing our very own honey, looked after by our in-house bee keeper Matt, these are the kind of things that excite me. And having a team on board makes it even more fun and rewarding.
Favourite dish to cook?
Again, that changes like the wind. I am engrossed and influenced by different cuisines and methods. At the moment it’s pickling and preserving, a month ago I was inspired by many different Asian ingredients due to a new local Asian store opening up near home. I know as autumn draws closer I always get the game bug, as it can be such a quick season.
Truly I could not choose just one, I have way to many, but ones that have pride and place in my living room are – Mugaritz by Andoni Aduriz, Nham by David Thompson (best Thai cook book ever), St. Johns nose to tail eating, Pitt Cue, Pollen Street to name a few.
What would you recommend we try first on your new Summer menu? Tell us all about it.
Many delicious options to choose from… haha. In RG’s I would order the Orkney scallops. We serve these beautiful scallops with a burnt apple purée, morcilla emulsion, salt baked Jerusalem artichokes which are fried till really crispy and crunchy, then garnish with samphire and a black pudding powder. Typically scallops, apple and black pudding simply marry together so well, it’s all about getting fantastic ingredients and allowing then to showcase their quality and flavour.
What do you hope to introduce in the Autumn when the weather turns a little cooler?
Definitely looking forward to using different game, such as venison, duck as well as some amazing mushrooms and shellfish coming into season.
What are you most excited about at Rowhill Grange?
Having celebrated our wedding day to my amazing & supportive wife here 9 years ago, we fell in love with Rowhill. We celebrated one of the best days of our lives there, and amazingly some of those people still work here today, which just shows you it’s an amazing place to be a part of.
Is there any type of food you don’t like eating?
There are not many things, I am a firm believer of don’t knock it until you have tried it, especially having two young boys, it’s a rule in our house. I would rarely order anything with parsnip or beetroot, saying that, both vegetables feature on our menus. Just because I don’t like to eat them, doesn’t mean others don’t!
What’s your favourite kitchen gadget?
It seams silly, but I cannot function without my small pallet knife in my back pocket. I use it for everything and anything.
Describe your dream menu (to eat rather than cook!)
My favourite style of eating is family style grazing, lots of small different plates and tapas style of eating. With my father’s side of the family coming from the south coast of Spain, it’s definitely the best way to eat as you get a little taste of everything.
What’s your earliest childhood memory of food?
I vaguely remember, and my parents still remind me to this day, if I had a bone from some ribs or a steak, I was happy and still am.
If you weren’t a Chef what would you be?
I can’t answer this question, I literally have no clue. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Maybe sell sun beds on an exotic island, enjoying the beach life.
What is your favourite season?
Definitely Spring, it’s so refreshing after autumn and a dark & wet winter. A fresh start.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in the kitchens at Rowhill Grange?
Definitely spend time with my family, watching my two boys growing up so quickly. When I get the chance, I enjoy fishing, something I used to do with my Grandad. And obviously cooking, even though I do it as a job, I still enjoy cooking at home, especially in the garden with the amazing weather we have had recently.