Dublin chef Anna Haugh has in the past been described as Gordon Ramsay’s protege. The infamous celebrity chef entrusted her with the opening of his Battersea restaurant London House in 2014, and has even had her as a guest judge on his hit US TV show Hell’s Kitchen. But Anna has forged her own path in the industry, beginning her career at Derry Clarke’s Dublin restaurant l’Ecrivan, and working with chefs Shane Osborn and Philipp Howard after making the move to London. Following her stint at London House, she was appointed executive chef at the iconic Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard, where the innovative menu, and ‘press for champagne’ button, has made it a must-visit for food lovers. We recently caught up to talk food, cooking, and all things Irish.
You’ve spoken about cooking from a young age at home in Ireland. In what way has your Irish background informed your cooking?
Yes, I’ve been interested in cooking since I was very young. In fact, by the age of 12 I could cook a full family roast from scratch for six people. My parents raised me as their parents raised them; homemade food, fruit growing in the back garden which would be preserved or used until gone. There was definitely a focus on creating zero waste.
Do you enjoy cooking with Irish produce?
I enjoy using any great produce, but using great Irish produce makes me particularly proud. There is so much that Ireland has to offer and I am always happy to discover new Irish suppliers.
What food reminds you of home?
Typical things like oysters and seaweed. Lamb, christ, the smell of lamb reminds me of home! The smell of a full Irish breakfast cooking when you wake up. But also odd personal things like pickled mussels and sandwiches the size of your head.
Do you have a go-to beef dish or cut that you enjoy cooking with?
I love cooking with beef cheek, and particularly enjoy the flavours of a beef bourguignon. Ireland ‘meats’ France.
You’ve worked with some of the industry’s most venerable chefs. Is there one that stands out in terms of informing how you run your own kitchen?
When I was a commis chef I went to Derry Clarke, the owner of l’Ecrivain, and asked to work at there for my second year placement. He had already taken on a student, but had a chat with the college and was able to squeeze me in. I think as a chef, it’s the effort we go to please our guests, the idea of the extra mile. Derry and his wife Sally are warm, generous, hard-working people, something that has contributed to their massive success. I was a sponge when I was younger: I started my journey In l’Ecrivain and not a day goes past that I am not going the extra mile because of it.
You’re currently head chef at the super popular Bob Bob Ricard, where the menu serves high-end English and Russian cuisine. How have you put your own spin on the menu since you started?
I am trained in French cuisine, and Russian food is steeped in French influence. I have helped refine the dishes, I’ve replaced and created dishes that I believed were more suitable to sit on the menu and that would complement each other and make sense as a whole.
Bob Bob Ricard must see a lot of well-known faces come through the door. Any you’ve been nervous to cook for?
Nerves are a strange thing. They can make you feel awful, but I believe if you manage not to let them take over, they can actually help you perform better. We have a lot of well-known faces through the doors; Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue, and Samira Ahmed to name a few! But I guess I’m the most nervous when I have Mr and Mrs Haugh in, in my eyes, they are the biggest VIPs I’ll ever cook for.
Where are your favourite places to eat out in London?
I love Robin Gill’s restaurant The Dairy and Adam Byatt’s Trinity.
And what would you cook at home on a night off?
I love cooking at home especially for a group of friends. Braised lamb shoulder with gremolata and polenta is one of my favourite dishes.
And finally, any pro-tips on getting the best from your beef?
Look out for bright, healthy meat with a good marbling of fat, and try to buy from a butcher you trust. To cook, simply a hot pan with butter and salt as necessary can produce amazing results. As a tip, I would say marinate the beef, whatever the cut, in caraway and oil and a sprinkling of salt. It’s magic once you caramelise it in the pan with a splash of sherry vinegar.