Allister Barsby is chef at Hide and Fox, in Saltwood, Kent, which he co-owns with his partner, restaurant manager Alice Bussi.
At what age did you decide that you wanted to become a chef and who or what inspired you?
When I was fourteen, I took a Saturday job in a seafood restaurant in Whitstable called Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, where the cooking is simple, refined and full of flavour.
I spent my days washing pots and shucking oysters. After a while, I was given simple cooking tasks to do, like making the daily tarts and flans for the seafood counter, or chocolate fondants and crème brûlées for the restaurant. I loved it and straight away I knew I was going to cook for a living.
Who’s the best chef you have worked for and which other chefs do you admire?
The chef who’s had the most influence on me is Michael Caines (chef-owner of One Michelin-Starred Lympstone Manor) who I spent 8 years working with. He is a very charismatic and skilled chef, and his ability to teach really brings out the best in talented young cooks.
Other chefs I’ve admired throughout my career are Philip Howard, Brett Graham, Thomas Keller, René Redzepi and Raymond Blanc.
What’s your favourite worldwide restaurant and why?
A roadside restaurant just outside Florence whose name I can’t remember. We were starving after a long drive when we saw this place; ordered a couple of glasses of the local Chianti and devoured a plate of pork which had been cooked over coals. Perfect.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
That’s a tough one! The first meal I ate at Gidleigh Park by Michael Caines and every meal I had at The Ledbury – so memorable and full of flavour.
What’s your favourite local ingredient?
Kent Marsh lamb.
And your favourite global ingredient?
Mushrooms (ceps in particular) and truffles.
Where do you get your influences from?
Experiencing different cuisines, eating out, reading and sampling. It really does come from everywhere; even social media plays a role.
Is there a dish you could never take off the menu at Hide and Fox?
I try not to put the same dish on like-for-like but there is a crab dish I do with curry and mango which our guests love, so that is never too far from the menu.
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
The kitchen is open to everyone and doesn’t discriminate. You don’t need qualifications and, as long as you’re willing to learn and put the effort in, you can go anywhere and do anything! The creative side of the job is very satisfying. Seeing a dish develop from your head, to paper, to plate; then the trial and error stage and finally seeing the guests’ reactions is such a buzz.
And the worst thing about being a chef?
Of course you do miss some important/family events but if you really want it, those are sacrifices you are willing to make. For me the end goal was always to open my own restaurant, so it feels like all the sacrifices over the years were worth it, and now we can decide when to open and close.
And finally, which are your favourite restaurants in the Michelin Guide UK & Ireland?
The Dining Room at Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire
L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Fordwich Arms, Fordwich, Kent
Umu, Mayfair, London
Yauatcha Soho, London
Hide and Fox was one of 17 restaurants newly awarded One Michelin Star in the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2021. See the full list of awards here.
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