Full name: Arnaud Stevens
Role: Owner and creative chef at Plate Restaurant
DOB: [Not given]
Fun Fact: “I can’t go a day without fizzy cola bottles, I’m addicted to them ”
J: So, starting right at the beginning – could you tell us a little about your formative years? You’re half French, and have said that the French appreciation for food shared with family was a big influence on you. Was a career in food and drink always on the cards for you?
A: Yes it was, I come from a really foodie family, lots of my ancestors have worked in kitchens, so it was almost a definite I’d become a chef.
And then onto your career. The names and places on your CV are quite something – Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes, Jason Atherton, etc. Just prior to this you were at The Gherkin / Searcy’s. Could you tell us a bit about your career progression up to now, and why you decided to ‘strike out on your own’ as it were?
I knew from the beginning that the route to become the best chef I could be, was to work with the best out there, so I set out to do just that and what I’ve learnt from working alongside these chefs has been invaluable to my career. I started out on my own as I’ve always had a clear idea of how I personally wanted to run a restaurant and I’ve made that happen with Plate, by offering excellent honest food and terrific service.
And now onto the present day. In terms of the food and the experience, what’s the approach you’re taking with Plate? In a city full of restaurants and street food, what does Plate do uniquely?
Aside from my incredible team, Plate is the only London restaurant to serve meat from the award-winning Dashwood Estate. The only other restaurants that have access to meat from the estate are Tom Kerridge’s restaurants The Hand & Flowers and The Coach.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into what you do?
I get up at 6 am and have a ginger and honey pukka tea – really amazing, I swear by them. Then maybe a site visit to EJ Churchill to collect some meat for the restaurant and then M40 to London. A quick stop off at Montcalm Marble Arch to visit the events team there, where we do the catering, and discuss current and upcoming projects.
Then onto New Black, where we provide the pastries, to check on quality and sales before my daily meeting with head chef Matt Hill and ops manager Ludo Bargibant at Plate in Shoreditch. From there, it’s straight into service for lunch. Following this I prep with the kitchen team for dinner and check the restaurant is ready for dinner service before, prep is so important to me! Normally back home about 2am to bed.
What’s your greatest/most memorable professional moment been, so far?
Being made the executive chef at The Gherkin’s Searcys at the age of 31. It was proof all my hard work was paying off.
Where do you get your ideas?
Walking in West Wycombe near where I live, nothing like a relaxing walk to inspire me. I also like to travel a lot, whether that be in the UK or further afield, other cultures really inspire me. I also really love to try out new restaurants, nothing like scoping out the competition to inspire you.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
Managing your own business accounts and then realising I needed a very good accountant.
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from, or do you have any specific influences?
Ollie Dabbous at Hide is a real eye-opener. Everything from the food, to the service and interior of the restaurant is incredible and for a guy so young he is incredibly talented.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
Love working with my excellent team but hate payroll, admin really isn’t my forte.
What advice would you give to aspiring professional chefs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
Be prepared to work hard and spend as much time possible learning your craft.
If you could get anyone to try your foods (fictional or real, living or dead) who would you pick and which of the dishes would you like them to try? Assume that they go on to be your brand ambassador…
I’d get Massimo Bottura to try our Crispy Pork Chop with in-season peaches on our grilled sourdough. Its currently my favourite dish on the menu and I think it would really be up his street.
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you could swap lives for the day with any fictional character (and you’d be guaranteed to return to your life after 24 hours), who would you choose, and why?
It’d have to be Charlie Chaplin, as he always looks like he’s having a lot of fun.
If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life (assume that your metabolism becomes specially adapted and this is literally the only thing you could eat) – what food would you pick and why?
Guanciale, I’m obsessed with it!
If you had a time machine that could send you backwards in time as far as you wanted (without any logical paradoxes, timeline contamination, etc.) – what period of time would you visit and what are the first 3 things you’d do once you got there?
I love the eighties and it means I could work for Bernard Loiseau, a proper chef’s chef, Go to the Live Aid Concert as it had some of my favourite ever acts perform and I’d eat at Marco Pierre White’s Harvey’s restaurant in Wandsworth everyday, as I have only ever heard good things!