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CHRIS GALVIN


Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Chris Galvin speaks exclusively to Camilla Davies about his culinary journey


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hris Galvin’s 30-year pursuit of gastronomical excellence has taken him from the early days of scrubbing pans to the seven restaurants he owns today. Starting his working life as a pot wash at a local Essex restaurant, Galvin secured himself a position as commis chef at the Ritz in London. From there, chef Paul Gayler encouraged him to join his kitchen at restaurant Inigo Jones, then the Lanesborough Hotel.


Leaving London to experience the kitchens of


New York, working with Anthony Worrall Thompson at Menage a Trois, Galvin returned to spend 10 years creating dishes alongside Terence Conran. He’s shared kitchens with heavyweight restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, too, before venturing out with his younger brother, Jeff. The duo opened French-inspired Bistrot de Luxe in London’s Baker Street in 2005. “I think if you ask any chef, we all dream of opening our own restaurant and unfortunately it doesn’t happen for most people so I’m really lucky,” smiles a modest Galvin. That said, he had already been instrumental in managing restaurants Orrery and the Wolseley through those crucial early months. Orrery secured Galvin his first Michelin star in 2000, so he didn’t come to Bistrot de Luxe entirely green. “We were confident in our abilities, but having seen so many restaurants open and not work, we had a lot of sleepless nights,” he says.


The brothers’ vision was simple, affordable, beautifully crafted cuisine. A lifetime Francophile – “I spent 26 years writing to kitchens in France asking if they’d take me for three days, a week, a month…” – Galvin’s methods of sourcing produce


strayed from British convention of the time. “Jeff and I have always loved markets since we were very young,” he nods. “We decided we could save by sourcing our own flour, and lots of our own fruit, vegetables and fish, by speaking to farmers.” The brothers also realised that to keep their menu priced just where they wanted it, they needed to take a selective, innovative approach. “Take a rare breed, say a Gloucester Old Spots pig; you don’t have to buy the loins but you can certainly get the shoulder. We used a lot of our skills in slow cooking things, lots of braising, and we saved money buying that way. “We helped the farmers because they were really crying out and saying, ‘Look, we’re getting left with lots of offal, lots of secondary cuts, we can’t keep producing just loins and two fillets; there’s a lot more to an animal than that’. So we were just there at the right time to be able to buy these at the right place.”


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nce they’d launched, however, the chefs realised this method of buying wouldn’t last forever. “The killer for us was when the water bath came out – anyone could


drop a shin, a shoulder, a Jacob’s Ladder into a bag and cook it on a low temperature for 12 hours. All of a sudden things we were paying 70p or a quid for became £3.50, £4.50 and starting getting nearer the price of a prime cut. “It’s great for the farmers, but it was pretty devastating for a lot of small businesses. At least animals get used up now – tongues, cheeks, ears, tails and so on. We can’t moan about that though it was a bit painful for us at the time. But that’s what got us off the ground.”


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