Flash-grilled: Simon Henbery

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Simon Henbery Executive Chef Director at Chucs restaurant group

Related tags: Chefs, London, Italian cuisine, Casual dining

Simon Henbery is Executive Chef Director at upmarket Italian dining group Chucs. His CV includes senior roles at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen London and Barbecoa.

What was your first job?
My first job was a paper round before school. My first kitchen job was as a KP at Meltons in York – they took me on and trained me, invested in me.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
I'm pork pie obsessed. Also a late night dirty cheese toastie.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Restaurant Sat Bains about five years ago. The food was incredible. Clean and natural but very creative. I need to go back.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
My old bosses Michael and Lucy from Meltons in York. They opened a ‘fancy’ restaurant in York when there was no one else doing it. They’ve been in The Good Food Guide for more than 25 years now. Michael helped to start the Festival of Food there and there is now an amazing food culture in the city. 

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I always wanted to do something creative but to be honest I probably wasn’t good enough so falling into cooking was an amazing stroke of luck.

What is your biggest regret?
Probably not really travelling enough or working abroad before settling down.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
People who don’t love what they do – I hate watching chefs just going through the motions while they work, with no care and no respect for the ingredients.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
I had a woman send her chicken breast back saying it was leg. It went back and forth with the waiter as we explained it wasn't. The last time he went back to her and explained we didn’t have any legs and it was definitely breast. She pointed at her friend and said "it's leg, he's doctor".

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Lamb dhansak. I could eat Indian food every day.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Instinctive, clean and unfussy.

Most overrated food?l
Lobster.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Coloured chefs jackets. Also putting your name on your chef’s jacket.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
The late AA Gill at Hoi Polloi - he hated everything about the place!

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
My wife and boys. It's great when you make a family meal and they're all loving it.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Attitude is everything. Anything can be taught but if you don’t have the right work ethic and attitude, you'll get nowhere.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
At work, my knives. At home, an old Le Cruset pot I got from my nan when it got too heavy for her to use.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Pasta is a mid week go to. Sundays I'll get in trouble with the wife if it's not a roast dinner. If there was a roast potato world championships...

What’s your earliest food memory? 
Mum’s mince and mash.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Life's like a shit sandwich - the more bread you have the less shit you have to eat. 

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
Probably coming off a Vespa on the roundabout at Waterloo around Christmas. I had my mum's turkey under the seat and it was tenderised on the road!

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I don’t get to much these days with two boys, and I would've answered very differently six years ago. Now I'm happy catching a match at the pub with mates or seeing a live band. The rare dinner out somewhere good with my other half.

Tipple of choice?
A negroni - and beer of course.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A proper hot curry with no worries about the next morning for a change.

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