Chef of the Week: Allister Barsby, Chef Patron at Hide and Fox in Kent

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Hide and Fox was opened in June 2019 by my business partner Alice Bussi and I.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I first wanted to cook for a living when I was 16 working at Wheelers Oyster Bar in Whitstable for a weekend job. From there I was offered my first full time job at Reads in Faversham where I learnt the very basics of cooking and how to run a section. After 2 years there I moved down to Devon to work for my friend and mentor Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park, I’d say that was where I became a real chef. It was demanding and high pressure, but I went through the ranks and after 4 years (with a stint at The Bath Priory in between) I became Head Chef at Gidleigh and held the position for 3 years.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I’ve always loved the hard work and comradery of being in an elite kitchen and rising through the ranks. It does feel amazing when you’re a junior chef and you get these promotions after all the hard work. The creativity is something I really enjoy too.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, vinegar and soy sauce.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
I do feel a little lost if I’m plating up and I don’t have my tweezers at least on my person, so probably them.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
There’s a huge emphasis on crockery right now. Chefs spending hundreds of pounds, sometimes per plate. And now more than ever you’re seeing caviar and truffles on almost every dish. Don’t get me wrong I love these ingredients too and I do use them sparingly, but sometimes I think it’s a bit too much.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Presentation over flavour and balance, or over working a dish.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn, but inevitably you get a bit bored of the root vegetables and then I cant wait for spring.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I love pasta dishes, there is always one on the menu in the form of a raviolo or tortellini. At the moment it’s a chicken and egg yolk raviolo with a rich onion and soy broth with burnt garlic oil.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I’m always thinking about dishes and food combinations, it doesn’t stop so dishes will pop into my head. Its usually just a sit down, look at what’s on season and go from there really.

Who was your greatest influence?
I worked for 8 years with Michael Caines and he still influences my food now so I would say he has. But in general its myself, thinking about food all the time, putting dishes on paper and trying them out.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Michael Caines, Thomas Keller and Simon Rogan.

What is your favourite cookbook?
The Square: Savoury.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Its not the last year but I think Bridge Arms is one of my favourite spots, it really hit the ground running opening during the pandemic. Josh is a phenomenal chef.