Interviews

Andrew du Bourg

We talk to the chef-patron of The Elderflower restaurant in the New Forest

What inspired you to become a chef?
Being a chef was something I fell into. I had aspirations of being a stockbroker and then tried my hand at computer programming but could not see myself doing that for the rest of my working life. It was my mum who suggested that I should be a chef as I loved to cook. I was also inspired by the late 90s cooking shows like Ready Steady Cook. But it was Jamie Oliver that really showed how cool it was to be a chef.  

After working in restaurants and hotels for 15 years, you opened your own place – how would you describe the transition and what are the biggest challenges?
Going from running a department to now having to do everything is the biggest challenge I face. Both my wife and I had to learn accounting, marketing and HR very quickly. We made mistakes but it’s how you learn from them which is important.

What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?
It doesn’t bear thinking about. I turned down being a semi-pro footballer, but didn’t think that was my future.

At the end of a long day, what do you like to cook?
I am more than happy to share some red wine with my wife, and savour some really good cheese and homemade pickles and chutneys.  

What food could you not live without and why?
Bread. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Freshly made bread, toasted with a healthy amount of butter melting into the fantastic golden brown crust. So good.

What is the vital ingredient for a successful kitchen?
The humble egg – it’s so versatile. Quite simply a magical ingredient I couldn’t be without.

How do you start developing a new recipe?
It all depends. The more playful ideas will jump out at me. An idea will get stuck in my head and I work it over until I can visualise it. If I’m a bit stuck, I’ll look at seasonal charts and let the ingredients tell me what they want to be married with. A taste can trigger the development of a dish. You taste something new and then start thinking what else will complement and lift it?

If you could cook for anyone (past or present) who would it be and what would you cook for them?
My grandmother. She never got to see me become the chef I am today. She played a huge part in me discovering food and cooking and I would love to show her what I can do today. I would most probably treat her to my bespoke seven-course tasting menu, starting with her favourite of braised Dorset snails, sweet garlic, black treacle cured bacon, watercress and parsley crunch.

Who is the most interesting person you have cooked for?
Every customer has their own story. But if I had to choose it would be The Queen or her mother.

What is the strangest request you have had from a diner?
A customer asked me to cook him a three-course menu as he had not been able to enjoy a good meal out in years due to his allergies.

Which chef do you most admire at the moment and why?
Peter Gilmore. I think his food screams elegance.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?
It depends on the occasion. If I wanted to spoil my wife for a birthday then I take her to Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood Hotel.