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June 10, 2011 10:07 pm

FT Foodies: Anthony Demetre

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Anthony Demetre

Chef and restaurateur Anthony Demetre runs three restaurants in London with Will Smith: Arbutus in Soho, Wild Honey in Mayfair and Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden

Do you believe the maxim “never trust a thin chef”?

I think all chefs are thin these days. We eat on the hoof, and seldom sit down for lunch or dinner. We don’t have three to four meals a day. One thing we do crave is a sugar rush – it’s a very hot environment in the kitchen, and very tense.

What are your earliest food memories?

My parents were always at war; Sunday meals with our grandparents were a solace, a day where all the troubles were put behind us. My father was Cypriot and his mother was a sensational cook. We often had a Greek soup with chicken-based stock, rice and bits of chicken thickened with egg yolks and lemon juice.

Did you ever consider another profession?

I joined the Navy; I wanted to be a pilot. But I had a recurrent knee injury and so I was medically discharged. I was 19 and it was a huge blow.

Is the customer always right?

No. We don’t always get it right, but we’ll put our hand up if we’re wrong. But I’m glad to be in the kitchen not on the floor. I can’t deal with ill-mannered people, even if they’re in the minority.

Are there any weaknesses left in your cooking?

I’m in my early forties, and the beauty of the industry is that you never stop learning. I’m a coeliac, so I’m experimenting with alternatives to gluten – buckwheat and millet, things like that.

What do you cook at home?

My wife cooks during the week and I cook at weekends. I cook at home as I do at the restaurant – I have no idea what I’m going to cook until I see what’s in the fridge. Last week I did Persian rice with lamb marinated overnight in lemon and coriander.

Who would work in your dream kitchen?

I’d pick homegrown chefs, even though my heart’s in France. James Lowe, who was head chef at St John, is one to watch, I’m a big fan. And I like cool chefs with flair such as Jacob Kenedy from Bocca di Lupo. Tom Kerridge at the Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow is also fantastic. I wouldn’t have sections; we’d all muck in. We’d all produce great food and have good fun.

What are your plans for the next year?

I’ve got a cracking idea for something that isn’t being done in London at the moment. It would be informal – food is important but it’s only about 40 per cent of what you experience.

www.arbutusrestaurantgroup.co.uk

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