After a stint of work experience in a fish restaurant near his home in Newcastle, Australia, Brett Graham left school at the age of 15 to chase a career in the kitchen. Winning the Josephine Pignolet Award secured him a trip to the UK, where he found a job working for Philip Howard atThe Square. Head chef at the two Michelin-starred The Ledbury in Notting Hill since 2005, he is committed to seasonality, good provenance and, of course, exceptional quality.
1. What is your favourite place to eat out?
At the moment I’m really enjoying eating at The Clove Club. If you can only go once, have the set menu – it’s really good. They place a really strong emphasis on British produce.
2. What is your favourite cookbook?
I’ve amassed a massive collection of cookbooks, which my wife is always trying to persuade me to sort through. I’ve got two favourites: one’sRockpool Bar & Grill by Neil Perry. It was the first cookbook I got when I was working in Sydney. The other is Great Chefs of France, by Quentin Crewe and Anthony Blake, published in 1978. It’s a great first cookbook, with all the basics for chefs.
3. What ingredients do you always have to hand?
The ingredients I have to hand are always seasonal, so they do vary. I’m always using deer; I’m licensed to shoot, so I go shooting regularly in the season. I love ceps and I’ve been using lots of artichokes, both Jerusalem and Chinese, which are all in season now; crapaudine beetroot as well, which has an intense flavour, and chestnuts, of course,.
4. What is your favourite food shop?
Ottolenghi on Ledbury Road.
5. What is your favourite food destination?
Even after all this time, I still love to go to France. I admire the food and culture so much. I went to Laguiole in Aveyron, and spent some time in that area. Michel Bras has his three Michelin-starred restaurant there, which he runs with his son. I love all the traditions the French keep – and that you can sit down with three generations for dinner. There’s such a connection with food there, which we don’t have over here.
6. Do you have a particular food obsession at the moment?
Game is probably as close to obsessed as I get. It’s one of those meats that’s still seasonal. It’s rutting season now, so female deer are better to eat, because the males are full of testosterone – you should never eat a male deer at this time of year. But there are great grey partridges, snipe, golden plover, wild duck such as teal, and Finnish grouse, which begins during the first week of October.
8. Is there anything you never cook?
I can’t imagine serving people food that I don’t like. I don’t like Vegemite. I don’t eat Vegemite, so I don’t cook with Vegemite. I don’t think there’s anything else. If I like it, I assume everyone must like it. But Vegemite… I don’t understand.
9. Can you give us a cooking tip?
To cook partridge and pheasant, get good birds and poach them first in well-seasoned chicken stock at about 65°C for nine minutes. Then dry the bird off and roast it. The flavour will be better, and the meat becomes more succulent. People often overcook game; this helps stop it from being dry. Make sure you rest it really well before serving.
10. Do you grow anything yourself?
I grow lots of stuff. I’ve got five chickens in my back yard in Richmond, and I grow Jerusalem artichokes, sorrel, rhubarb, celeriac, various herbs, alpine strawberries, red and white bronze fennel, radish, gooseberries, and blackcurrants for the leaves – goat’s milk caramel and blackcurrant-leaf ice cream is delicious.
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