We meet with Alex Boyd Executive Head Chef at Caxton Grill for Chef’s Table
Alex Boyd grow up in Aldershot and then at the age of 18 moved to London. For two years prior to moving Alex travelled to Westminster College to study for a Professional Chefs Diploma having decided at the age of 12 that a chef is what he wanted to be.
In his second year at college, one of the work placements he attended was at Scotts of Mayfair. Two months in, Alex was offered a position in the kitchen. Not wishing to give up his college position he studied and had the theory in the mornings and worked the late shift at Scotts in the evening, gaining invaluable experience and as he says “best thing I ever did” As a commis Alex worked on all stations and was always asking questions.
His culinary CV continued with time working for Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire. The “very tough environment” of a Michelin kitchen under Chef Koffman instilling lessons that remain with him today. His career includes working at the Montcalm Hotel, where he progressed from Chef de Partie to Senior Sous Chef in just three months and the Bluebird Restaurant, Chelsea. He was then involved in the launch of the V Restaurant & Bar in Hong Kong, where he spent three years learning new skills and experimenting with a variety of local ingredients. Alex then returned to London to join L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, another two Michelin starred restaurant, before his appointment as Head of Catering at the Lawn Tennis Association. Here he spent six years before leaving for a senior role as Executive Head Chef at The Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.
He is now Executive Head Chef at the St. Ermin’s Hotel and for the Caxton Grill. We chatted to him in the Private Dining room of the Caxton Grill. That morning Alex had already been busy up in the Roof Kitchen Garden on top of the hotel checking on the 350,000 Buckfast honey bees that produce the St. Ermin’s Hotel’s own honey and the homegrown fruits and vegetables utilised in his inspired new afternoon tea and Caxton menus.
Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?
A: Racing Driver – I could have been the next Lewis Hamilton…
Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)
A: Alinea in Chicago. I think Grant Achatz is just amazing he is so far ahead of other restauranteurs. So innovative in the plating and the way desserts are served direct on to the tables, definitely somewhere I want to visit.
Also, I have to say I really want to get to the Fat Duck, not managed that yet
Q: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts
A: Its a very interesting topic of conversation. Because you’ve got the customer and you’ve got a chef, and a chef will work hard because for him it’s a status symbol it’s recognition of hours and hours of hard work, pushing the limits, maintaining consistency and training his brigade to put out what you need them to put out. It’s a huge amount of work. From a customers point of view, I think people look to it as a certain standard of food. They like to go, certainly in London, to place they hear about, oh did you know this place has a star, or that place has a star. It can really help business and I think it almost puts you on the map especially in a city where there are lots of great restaurants getting that star elevates you to another status. So, I do think they’re important and I do think the industry needs them it’s almost like getting a BAFTA or an Oscar.
Q: What do you think about negative reviews?
A: You have to be aware of them but take them with a pinch of salt. I mean it depends if there are constantly negative reviews about a place, that’s telling you something. But if you’ve got a hundred reviews and two of them are negative so the majority of customers are happy, then that’s a good place. I think you need to look at reviews as a bigger picture rather than reacting to one person’s comments. All of the online services like TripAdvisor make it so easy for people to be negative in fact they almost encourage it. We get it here, but I would personally much rather a customer speak to us at the time and we can sort out the issue and hopefully end up with a happy customer.
Q: Having spent some time in Hong Kong do you use any of the techniques or ingredients from the in your cooking/kitchen now?
A: I would say I’m a lot more comfortable working with asian spices etc. But Chinese cooking is so different to how we cook in the UK. Caxton’s menu is modern British so it would not be appropriate to bring too many Chinese influences into the kitchen, but I do have the techniques if required. There is one dish I would like to maybe try on the menu. I had it a couple of times whilst in Hong Kong, it’s called Scallops baked in Crab Milk. It’s almost like a very light crab mouse with the scallops baked through it. Like a savoury blancmange but full of flavour. I’m trying to emulate it but not totally successfully yet.
Q: What are your personal favourite dishes that are currently on the Caxton menus: A) to cook and B) to eat
A: To eat it would be one of the starters. Beef Carpaccio its done with Basil Dressing, smoked almonds and parmesan. We use fillet of beef from a farm we work closely with, in Sussex. It is incredible beef and which we dress with pickled shallot rings, basil leaves and little parmesan croquettes.
To prepare would be a salmon dish. We cure the salmon for an hour and then sous vide at 42 degrees to get a really soft melting piece of salmon. Served with Horseradish Cream, Pickled Cucumber and a smoked salmon foam.
Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any chef past or present who would that be and why?
A: oh wow… anyone? Then It would have to be Anton Mosimann he’s an inventor of modern gastronomy, nouvelle cuisine. He was right at the forefront of that and an incredibly knowledgeable chef. I’ve heard he has thousands and thousands of cookbooks, a room full of them apparently and that he is a real gentleman. That would be an incredible opportunity.
My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?
Eleven Madison Park
Last year In April I had the chance to visit again 11 Madison Park in New York. The night we were there was the day it was announced they had won the Best Restaurant in the world. Everything about this restaurant is amazing. I would suggest to anyone going there to try the Baked Sweet Potato because whats put in front of you looks just like a piece of baked potato, but when you taste it it’s simply an incredible depth of flavour and texture.
Website – https://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ElevenMadisonPark/
I used to live just down the road from here and my wife and I started going when they first opened. Phil Howard is behind the concept and it recently got its first Star. Right from the beginning, you could see that they just wanted to serve really great food
Website – https://www.kitchenw8.com/
Twitter – @KitchenW8
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About Favourite Tables
Our ethos is about places people love – always has been, always will be.
We know that most people choose where to eat based on recommendations from friends and family, a social interaction – a Social Marketplace
Favourite Tables is just that – our recommendations and reviews are from people who love where they go and go back to.
The popularity of each Favourite Tables restaurant is assured on the Social Marketplace and through the restaurant reviews they receive.
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