We share some words with the laconic (but no less talented) Michael Leconteur, the man behind the excellent food offerings at the rapidly expanding empire that is Mews of Mayfair (which includes The Mayfair Pizza Co, La Cave and Cartizze). The recurring theme? Inventive food thought experiments and Australia…
Jack: When we met, you told me that chasing Michelin Stars and accolades wasn’t really what you are into. So, what drives you, and what makes you put in those crazy hours that lead to success in the culinary world?
Michael: I’m driven by wanting to be the best chef I can be in the kitchen, and to make customers enjoy their dining experience at Mews. I’m passionate about changing the menu according to the seasons, but also using ingredients that might surprise you.
I remember you mentioning that you look after a lot of stuff at Mews of Mayfair, not just the Brasserie. Could you give us an outline of the various different outlets there, and what you do at each? Seems like Jonny and the other guys behind Mews have given you many opportunities to show off your skills in a bunch of different ways – what with the silver spoon service in the Chef’s Dining Room, plus the various pairings/things going on at La Cave….
I oversee the entire food offering at Mews, La Cave, Mayfair Pizza Co. and recently-launched Cartizze – in all, a brasserie and courtyard, two private dining rooms, Italian pizzeria and cocktail bar.
I think I remember you mentioned that the current menu is largely down to you? Where do you draw your inspirations and what are your influences? How do you keep up to date with trends and happenings in the food world?
I’m influenced by man things; seasons, chefs, other restaurants, books, the internet and trends. It’s a non-stop process and the menu is constantly evolving across the areas I look after.
Do you spend much of your downtime at The Mews when you’re not working? What do you do for fun and when you’re out of the kitchen?
When I’m not working I don’t come to Mews as I spend enough time here so try to have a life outside of work. I like to go out to eat on days off and see friends and family – and go to the gym when possible!
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into life at Mews of Mayfair and the world of Michael Lecouteur?
My day starts at 6am and I am in the kitchen by 7am to start receiving deliveries. The other chefs start at 8am then it’s pre-work, admin in the office and working on new menus – or a combination of them all – ’til 12. Then it’s lunch service ’til 3, then the same again between 3 and 6. Dinner service runs from 6 to 11 then I’m in bed by 12.30am. A long day!
What’s your culinary philosophy, summed up in a sentence?
“To cook the best I can within the job role I have.”
And your most and least favourite dishes to cook?
I genuinely don’t have a favourite or least favourite. I don’t like to eat offal but I’m happy to cook it.
What advice would you give to aspiring professional chefs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
To keep your head down and take on board everything you can.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
Can’t think of anything I’d rather do!
What’s your ultimate aim and goal for your career? If you could achieve anything with it, what would you pick? Money and reality are no obstacle, so shoot for the moon…
To one day own my own place, be it a small restaurant or good gastropub somewhere outside of London!
If you could cook anything for anyone, anywhere you chose – who would you pick and what would you cook for them?
My loved ones and a BBQ on a beach in Australia.
Where next for you and your career?
Nowhere for the foreseeable future!
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If (friendly) aliens landed on earth and you specifically were tasked with deciding the three course meal (with a drink pairing of course) that they enjoyed at the welcome banquet, what would you have us serve them?
“Sky”: Confit deviled duck tongue, Christ on a Bike chilli sauce. Drink: A medium Rioja (slightly oaked)
“Sea”: A fish course of Stingray Wing grilled with deep fried seaweed and 4 tempered rock oysters. Drink: A Gimlet
“Land”: Suckling Pig with an apple and bacon cape, on a body of honey roasted root vegetables. Drink: A bottle of Morland’s Old Golden Hen†
If you had to get into a no holds barred, 20 round fist fight with any fictional character, who would you square off against?
Hans Gruber, on the grounds of his choosing.
You are appointed head chef of a restaurant/swamp somewhere near the Misty Mountains (assume this is theoretically possible for a start) and you have been tasked with prepare a three course meal for none other than Gollum (and remember that he hates taters…) – what would you make for him?
I’d call the restaurant/swamp the Eagle & Child…
To start – Jullien of Hobbit’s finger
Main – Raw John Dory served on a bed of regret
Dessert – Chocolate Volcano
Drink – 1 pint of Jacksons Gut
Also I reckon the guest is allergic to gluten, so no Lembas Bread either…