Posted 10th December 2013 by Great British Chefs
Andy McLeish knew he wanted to become a chef right from the moment he cooked his family Christmas dinner while still in primary school. Andy remembers being fascinated with food from a very early age, and spent happy hours lying on the floor watching Take Six Cooks on TV. Little did he know that he would later work for Nico Ladenis, one of the chefs featured in that inspiring show.
However, the route to becoming a Michelin starred chef was not straightforward. Back when Andy was at school it was virtually unheard of for boys to take on a domestic science qualification. His parents had to fight for him to be included on a course which included sewing modules as well as food technology.
Now Andy is well at home at his Kent restaurant, Chapter One, where he has been cooking classical, Modern European treats for more than ten years, earning a Michelin star and 4 AA Rosettes along the way.
Andy’s fondest food memories stem back to large one pot dishes. “Mum would make an awesome stew or casserole”, Andy recalls. “There’s nothing better than taking the lid off a good pot roast and everyone can dive in. Cooking at home was always magical. Right now I love the hearty and down to earth goodness of slow cooked dishes”.
One of the first dishes Andy remembers experimenting with was cubes of Cheddar cheese rolled into breadcrumbs and deep fried. “It wasn’t sophisticated”, laughs Andy, “But my Dad thought they were amazing”.
Andy enjoys cooking with his children. Nine year old Ella is currently showing the most promise. “We hand make pasta together. She has fun making things with the leftovers and even though clearing up afterwards takes up a bit of time we both enjoy it”.
Like many chefs, Andy believes in opening up all sorts of flavours and foods to children at the start. “My children aren’t fussy eaters but can come back from school with some bad habits. Sunday roast is their favourite meal but they will often surprise me with what they like. Ella has eaten oysters at the Galvin brothers restaurant. All of them love olives and even pungent items like roasted garlic. Children should be encouraged to try anything once! Try to make things fun and give them unusual and surprising names”.
A great example is Andy’s Bird in a Basket. Sticky chicken drumsticks marinated in crushed garlic mixed with sweet chilli sauce. When served with a zesty lime coleslaw, it’s a real winner with children. “My kids get intrigued when I tell them we’re having a bird in a basket for tea”.
For a seasonal treat Andy’s family enjoy making fruits of the forest muffins. “Nothing beats the smell of home baked goodies coming out of the oven” says Andy. With winter berries, oats and white chocolate, they make homely and delightful bite sized treats.
At Christmas this year, Andy’s looking forward to cooking turkey on Christmas Day. “We only have it once a year, but the kids enjoy it. It’s a traditional family favourite. For us, Boxing Day is more of a day for picking so we’ll have plenty of seafood dishes and some beautiful smoked salmon”.
You can find out more about Andy and sample some of his recipes over at our Cooking with Kids section.