André joined the judging panel in 2017 and brings his talent and wide experience with classic cuisine to the judging panel. His career has seen him work in some of Britain’s top restaurants under the likes of Nico Ladenis, Bruno Loubet and Chris Galvin, before taking the role of Executive Head chef at Cliveden House in Berkshire and, since 2019, Executive Chef of the full food and beverage at the 5 star luxury, Corinthia Hotel in London.
After winning the Roux Scholarship in 2002, André went on to be awarded a Master of Culinary of Arts in 2005 and competed in the Bocuse d’Or in 2007, placing tenth, which means he is no stranger to competitions. Having had inspirational mentors in his own career, he has in turn nurtured other chefs’ talent in his kitchen. In 2006, Armand Sablon won the Roux Scholarship while working André’s brigade at Galvin at Windows; it was the second time a chef from an existing scholar’s brigade won the competition. When André left Cliveden, his head chef – and fellow Roux Scholar – Paul O’Neill took the role of executive chef. André is also a firm believer in youth and coaching and works closely with colleges on apprenticeships and training in London and his hometown of Bath.
André is on the board of the Academy of Culinary Arts, for their annual awards of excellence and, in 2009, he achieved the Level 5 Management and Leadership Diploma.
How important have your mentors been to your career?
Mentoring is vital, I believe, for an individual and I have been lucky enough to have been guided along my way at critical times. Mentoring is two-fold: firstly, there is the day-to-day sounding board and advice from a head or senior chef, pointing you in the right direction and helping you to grow; and secondly there is the competition coaching, perfecting of the process, tasting and advising on the food, attention to detail and being there through practice to advise and nurture.
What is your top tip for head chefs and executive chefs who want to nurture the talent in their kitchen?
I will admit I was not a perfect young chef especially when I ran my first kitchens, but I am a firm believer in listening to your team, asking their opinions, sharing knowledge, asking them to create a new dish or asking their opinion in how a new process is working. Of course, you, as the chef are in charge, have the final say but with their input you will find a bigger spirit and belonging.
What advice would you give to chefs from large brigades/establishments for preparing for the Roux Scholarship?
I think the best advice for anyone preparing to enter is that you have the support of your chef and establishment; time is important to train and, as I have said with mentoring, you will need support with this. Try to free up enough time to cook through your dishes a number of times, on the clock, try to set yourself well and note everything as you go.
What do you enjoy about judging the Roux Scholarship?
What I enjoy most about judging is the taking part and being there through the process, tasting the dishes, seeing the individuals evolve, seeing other individuals come back again and get better and finally for the one great young chef to become the next scholar and a new member of the family.
What advice would you give applicants?
The written recipe part is very important: give that enough time and write it well; it must flow and be simple enough to follow; we judges must want to taste that dish. Also cook it through before you submit, get advice, have your chef read through it and give advice also. Prepare yourself well for the regional finals, cook through your dish a number of times. Always remember that a dessert must be factored into your timings, get your team to put together some mystery dessert boxes to give you some practice against the clock.
How can taking part in The Roux Scholarship help a chef's career?
Taking part in the Roux Scholarship will always make you stronger; competitions help to focus a young chef and see where they are alongside their peers. Also the competition is good opportunity to network and get noticed, a chance to make contacts for future opportunities.
How do employers/kitchen brigades benefit from entering their chefs?
Having a chef in the Roux Scholarship can fill the brigade with pride and excitement. For employers, the publicity of a having finalist in the competition, with press and broadcast coverage, can be great. The winner can return from their training a far more focused and better chef.
Why is it important to learn the classic cooking techniques?
It is always important to not lose the classical techniques and food and to remember where everything started from; without the classics we would not have a food culture. Classics are also there to be relooked at and reworked. Evolution is important in our trade and each generation should look back and improve on the past.
What have YOU learned thanks to being a judge?
I have learnt the importance of legacy and mentoring of our younger generation of chefs and front of house colleagues, having time for them and giving them the benefit of your advice to help them become the best.