Executive chef at the Grosvenor House hotel, Nigel Boschetti is reaping the benefits of a focused and challenging career. Determined to welcome and encourage others into the profession, he meets the London Produce Show and Conference 2015 (LPS15) culinary students at the five-star venue to give them a taste of what’s to come
I’m not sure if you remember, but it’s hard to be 17 years old. For most, it’s an age characterised by a strange mix of anxiety and confidence; you’ve got the world at your feet if only you just knew how to play your cards right. Arguably though, it’s even harder when you know precisely what you want to do and you’re sitting in front of one of the most influential people in your chosen future profession.
The LPS15 student fresh produce canapé competition winner is about to be announced and seven of the chosen Westminster Kingsway College students sit in front of chef Nigel Boschetti, looking on with a combination of trepidation and awe. Of course, there’s no need. We all realise at some point that everyone’s as human as the next person (well most people). And Boschetti is in fact, rather a nice person.
Before divulging who has developed and created the best canapé – which will not only be made and served by the group of students at the hotel with Boschetti during the LPS15’s opening cocktail event, but professionally styled and shot for food media-aimed recipe cards – the chef tells the students how he came to be where he is today.
“My goal was to be a chef in a five-star hotel,” says Boschetti, who has now been executive chef to the 70-strong team of chefs at the Grosvenor House for five years. “I was 16 when I started out on an apprenticeship on a day release basis from Ealing College. I’d never even heard of a Michelin star when I left school, but I was fortunate enough to learn on the job with a three-year apprenticeship under Bernard Gaume at the Carlton Tower hotel, Knightsbridge, in the Michelin-starred Chelsea Rooms.”
Now with a CV that features several Michelin-starred establishments, Boschetti surely and methodically built his way up to become executive chef over the course of 35 years; working at Soufflé, the Grosvenor’s 90 Park Lane restaurant, the Mayfair Intercontinental Hotel, Amberley Castle in West Sussex, Simpsons in the Strand, Payne and Gunter, the Millennium Gloucester Hotel and the Royal Lancaster Hotel.
“I soon realised that this job is a life-long lesson,” emphasises Boschetti, who has won various awards throughout his career, including the Catey Award for Hotel Chef of the Year in 2012. “There is so much to learn and I find out new things every day. You learn a new skill from an incoming chef, or learn how to execute a new trend, and you have to find out what your clients want. People eat out more now and expectations of food are growing.
“At Grosvenor House, we have the largest ballroom in Europe, with 2,000 covers, and we put on all manner of awards, from the BAFTAs to the Cateys, Auto Sports and Mercury, and we have 15 minutes to get the meal out from our hotel function areas, which is all down to preparation, good menu design and efficiency.”
The full LPS15 culinary student programme experience features many components, but possibly none so exciting as the tour of the hotel’s facilities. As well as being guided through the hotel’s JW Steakhouse, meeting head chef Julian Ward and looking through every different piece of beef served, as an extra treat the students get to see where they will be working to produce the canapé on June 3, in addition to the back-of-house logistics surrounding the chef demonstration stage that on June 4 features big chef names, such as show ambassador Jeremy Pang, the Nikkei Boys Jordan Sclare and Paul Michael, and online sensation Hari Ghotra.
And the winner is…
I know, the suspense is too much, so let’s get on with it. The standard of the seven canapé entries was outstanding and had a clear influence from the trip the students had taken to New Covent Garden Market a month earlier, to get to grips with wholesale and see what interesting things they could find for canapé development. From strawberries and cream meringues to cayenne shortbread with pea and mint purée, broad bean fritters and candy beetroot sushi, fresh produce, production timings and seasonal ingredients were all considered, making the decision difficult for Boschetti.
“The level of thought that went into these canapé designs and the work behind it was amazing,” Boschetti told the students, after they had talked through their designs and explained their choices. “It was so enjoyable to read through the recipes and look through the photographs, and find out that some of you had even considered allergies. But we have gone with a canapé that really sums up fresh produce in the summer for us: Elderflower and raspberry almond cake with chargrilled apricot and quenelle of mascarpone.”
The winner, 16-year-old first-year student, Emma McLeod received a certificate of achievement and now has to start thinking about how her marvellous canapé can be achieved in the kitchens of the Grosvenor house.
“I wanted my canapé to be very summery, so I used fresh elderflower to sweeten the almond sponge and chargrilled fresh apricots,” explains McLeod, who forages for elderflower every year, to make cordial. “I wanted to create something delicious with several of my favourite foods, using ingredients that I personally eat seasonally. Raspberries are my favourite fruit, and I only tend to eat them when they are in season, as they are most flavoursome then. I used an almond sponge because I wanted to create something lower in gluten, as it’s becoming more popular to eat less gluten.”
After all the excitement was over, it was time to say goodbyes and plan ahead to the start of the show. “There are so many opportunities available to you in this industry, so have a goal, stay focused and you will achieve your dreams,” were Boschetti’s parting words. There’s a feeling that with this executive chef on your side, anything is possible.
Click here for more information on the Stubbins Food Partnerships Opening Cocktail Reception and here to register for the show. Please note, all buyers of fresh produce can attend LPS15 free of charge.