After hours with… Andy Barber

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chef

Andy Barber, head chef at The Forge
Andy Barber, head chef at The Forge
The head chef at The Forge in Covent Garden has been in the industry for over 30 years, working along the way with some of the best chefs in the last few decades

How I got here:

After catering college and a couple of jobs working in Scotland and Sheffield, I moved down to London when I was 18 to begin a job at Ritz Casino. I was lucky enough to work with some highly regarded people in the industry, so when I left after a year and a half I walked into a job as demi chef de partie at Simply Nico, working under Tony Tobin.

I was there for five years but became head chef after four. Nico Ladenis would sometimes pop in and say hi, and he was always very encouraging and passionate.

When I left Nico’s I found I couldn’t get that same buzz anywhere else. So I went back to help open Café Nico. I ended up being in charge of that and Grosvenor House north block service kitchen, which was immense.

I then went to work at Café du Jardin in Covent Garden and a restaurant called Fulham Road, which Eric Chavot later took over, and then started with a group called Maxwells. It was a multisite operation that required a different set of skills and challenged my management style, but I really grew fond of events catering.

I moved onto a job at The Bleeding Heart in Farringdon, but moved on three years later to help Tate launch its events catering arm. Again, I stayed there for three years before Robert Seigler, who I met at Café du Jardin, was looking for a new restaurant and suggested we open somewhere together.

We took a look at a site in Covent Garden and fell in love with it. The Forge was born and the rest is history.

Life at The Forge

As the owner, Robert deals with the business side but we both have a hand in what goes on the menu. Iif he has an idea we’ll put it on the menu and try to marry it up with wine. Sometimes it’s brave but it works and our clients are happy.

We have a large menu but we couldn’t choose what to take off anyway. It’s one of those menus that looks so good you don’t know what to have.

While I’m still learning, The Forge has given me so much exposure and It really feels like have ownership on it. It feels that if I’m not here it won’t work.

My biggest regret

I didn’t travel, and now I’m 40 it’s too late for me. But I always say that if had I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now and wouldn’t be on this salary either.

My fondest memory

Was getting the job with Nico in the first place. It meant that I was just 18 and doing what I wanted to do – working as a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant at a young age, and Nico was very kind, thorough, disciplined and well respected. My parents were very proud and I consider myself lucky.

In the future

I want to develop The Forge even more and achieve an accolade to add to its history. I want to put us on the map and pull in more business. We still have some way to go.

Related topics: Business, People, Restaurants, Career Profile

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