Behind the scenes at a Michelin-starred restaurant

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Armed bodyguards, leaking ravioli and cutting up carcasses: all in a day‘s work for Andy Needham, head chef at Zafferano, who talks Time Out through a typical shift in his Michelin-starred restaurant

  • Behind the scenes at a Michelin-starred restaurant

    Andy Needham at work in Zafferano

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    Zafferano opened in 1994 under head chef Giorgio Locatelli and has since become known as one of London’s best Italian restaurants. Its current head chef, Andy Needham, started out at The Savoy, and joined Zafferano as sous-chef under Locatelli, becoming head chef in 1999 when Locatelli left. In the same year Zafferano received its first Michelin star, which Andy has carefully guarded ever since.

    The restaurant has long been a magnet for both the London and Hollywood A-list, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Robert De Niro and Mick Jagger. In 2005 a full refurbishment saw a 50 per cent increase in space, as well as the addition of a private cellar room. Here Andy talks Time Out through the juggling act which keeps Zafferano on course.

    Morning

    The first thing I do when I get in at 8am is say good morning to everyone, which allows me to see what kind of night they’ve had (it takes one to know one). If I see a bottle of water by their side, I’ll know they’re hungover; I’ll say nothing but I’ll check on them during the day.On a typical morning nine out of a total of 20 staff will be at work. We’re pretty international: English, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Polish. There’s a rule that if you’re late I’ll send you to the most expensive bakery in Knightsbridge to buy croissants for the whole kitchen. It’s incredible how that inspires punctuality.76 F Z delivery.jpgAt 8am, the fish delivery arrives. We check it’s all fresh before cleaning, scaling and filleting it. We get through 20kg of fish every day – 30kg including lobster. At the same time, the meat is prepared by two men who spend their days cutting carcasses. I buy big pieces of beef so they learn how to butcher correctly, and we use all the off-cuts for stocks and sauces. We check for colour, as well as the marbling of fat on beef, and healthiness of the skin on chicken.While all that’s going on, I’ll be busy checking the ingredients, prices and invoices, and occasionally making complaints to people, chasing payments or credit notes, and checking that suppliers are not charging too much. Generally, I’ll try to get business out of the way before 10am. The worst thing that can happen in the kitchen is for the fridges to go wrong, or the extraction to go down, so I make a point of checking each fridge’s digital readout – there are 12 in total – every morning. At 11.30am all prep stops. There are no excuses, either.

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