Chef Name: Claire Hutchings
Title: Yacht Chef and Private Chef.
Awards: Winner, Master Chef the Professionals, 2018.
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
My first memory of being in the kitchen was on Sundays when I was ten or so and I would help to chop the veg. Then one day I got to make the béchamel for the cauliflower cheese. I don’t know why, but this memory sticks in my mind. I think it was the process of making it so silky and smooth. I just loved being in the kitchen.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
Ferran Adrià has been a huge inspiration to me, and I am sure many others, because I like molecular gastronomy and the science behind cooking. He was the founder and creator of molecular gastronomy and therefore plays a huge role in my career.
I also really aspire to the philosophy of the Roca brothers. Every dish has a meaning and provokes memories. It’s also beautiful that as a whole family they are so passionate. I aspire to be like this and have a whole field of creativity behind me.
Grant Achatz is an incredible chef and person in general! To have lost all sense of taste but still strive for the best and never give up on his passion is amazing. I admire his strength, and his imagination is crazy. His dishes really are incredible.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Noma is one of my favourites as it uses new ingredients and techniques I have not seen before, therefore I can learn a lot from this book. Also the use of fermentation is very interesting. El Bulli is also one of my favourites, as it gives you the basic science and recipes which you can then go away and adapt and innovate with your own ideas.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Tomato and onion.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Moussaka is my all-time favourite moreish meal. It’s just divine served with a simple salad. There is something really special about this dish.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
Atelier by Jan Hartwig, because I have worked alongside him on a few events and the small bites I have tasted of his cuisine blew me away – the intensity of flavour yet the beauty of every dish. The dishes he creates are stunning visually too. I would just love to have the full experience.
And who would you take as your guest?
I would actually take one of my long-term diners. They have followed me through my career and always supported me. They are equally passionate about good food, and we said we would try to go there together.
What do you look for in a good chef?
A good chef should be passionate and full of energy. Chef life is hard work, so it’s very important to have boundless enthusiasm to keep up. Everybody has to start somewhere and learning is key, but if you see that sparkle in the eye that they want more, that shows a sign of a blossoming genius chef.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
I would say work hard, enjoy the ride, take every opportunity that arises, it’s a roller coaster so just ride through it. One day with all your knowledge, your mind will be buzzing full of ideas, but remember this doesn’t happen overnight, you have to work very hard for it.
Claire Hutchings is Head Chef of Super Yacht Chrimi III and a Private Chef.