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Q&A With Executive Chef Andy Hearnden

Q&A With Executive Chef Andy Hearnden

Meet Andy Hearnden.

You have probably seen him all over your socials recently so you may know all about the unbelievably delicious-looking meals he features on his social platform AndyCooks. But we bet you are curious to learn more about Andy himself? We sat down with Andy to talk about his passion for food and his journey as a Chef and where he is today.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it has influenced your food journey?

A: I’ve been a chef for over 20 years now and it has been a diverse and exciting journey that has shaped my passion for food.

I started my culinary journey in New Zealand, where I attended Chef’s College. I moved to London at the age of 21 and spent seven years working with renowned chefs like Tom Atkins and Richard Branson and later in the gastro-pub scene.

When I moved to Australia, I met my partner, Katelyn, also known as Babe. I worked at a number of cool spots around Sydney and Melbourne such as Felix, Gills Diner and ST. ALi before taking up the role of Group Executive Chef for Emirates Leisure Retail.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to join Kilcoy Global Foods as Executive Chef, running the Innovation Kitchen on the Sunshine Coast. As a side hustle I started to create content. The rest is history!

Q: What drew you to the food industry?

A: Growing up in a food-oriented family, we always gathered around the table for meals and enjoyed fresh baking which instilled in me a deep love for cooking. I never questioned that I would pursue a career in the food world.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in a kitchen?

A: The opportunity to create and experiment. Being able to take ingredients and transform them into delicious dishes is incredibly satisfying. The kitchen environment is fast-paced and dynamic, which keeps me on my toes and fuels my creativity.

Q: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges chefs face today and how can they overcome them?

A: One of the biggest challenges chefs face today is the shortage of staff. Finding and retaining skilled and dedicated team members has become increasingly difficult.

I think it’s important for chefs to be realistic about their position in the market and make strategic choices that align with their goals. To overcome the challenges, it’s crucial to streamline the kitchen operations. Each kitchen is unique, so it’s important for chefs to assess their specific situation and make informed decisions. Using meat as an example, surf clubs or cafes can focus on using pre-formed products like burgers or sous vide protein to save time and costs, while high-end restaurants may consider buying pre-portioned steaks or breaking down sub primals.

Q: What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in your career?

A: One of the most important lessons I have learned is the value of showing up. It’s not just about physical presence and being on time, but also about putting aside personal distractions and focusing on the task at hand.

When you show respect to others and yourself, people take you more seriously, and you have the opportunity to learn and grow faster.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring chefs who are just starting out?

A: Seek opportunities to work in the best restaurants possible, even at the beginning of their careers.

Choosing challenging jobs that push you to your limits can pay off immensely in the long run. It’s essential to embrace hard work and take on tasks that may seem difficult initially.

Q: Can you describe your approach to developing a new dish, from concept to final presentation?

A: When developing a new dish, I first explore different recipes, aiming for authenticity and selecting the best representation with the ingredients available to me. Once I make the dish authentically, I start analysing it. Looking for ways to improve efficiency such as incorporating techniques like Sous Vide for consistent results.

Next, I seek other people’s opinions and collaborate with industry experts to expand the concept further, seeking their knowledge and insights. This process continues until I’m satisfied, and the dish is well-received.

Q: How do you deal with criticism and feedback in your recipes and what tips do you have for adopting an open attitude towards feedback?

A: It’s crucial to recognise that not everyone will appreciate or enjoy every dish. Sometimes you must trust your instincts and back yourself when you believe in your concept, even if it receives initial criticism. At the same time, while that persistence is valuable, there’s also a time to recognise when an idea isn’t working and move on.

Adopting humility and a balanced perspective of self-belief and feedback can greatly contribute to personal and professional growth.

Q: How do you balance creativity and tradition in your cooking, and when do you choose to break with tradition?

A: This is a topical question at the moment. Balancing creativity and tradition is a delicate process. When creating recipes from different cultures, it’s crucial to respect tradition and do thorough research to ensure authenticity. If I deviate from tradition, I am careful to clearly communicate it and give the dish a distinct name. Breaking with tradition can be exciting, but it should be done thoughtfully because food is highly personal and cultural.

I believe that there’s room for creativity in cooking, and challenging traditions can help evolve culinary practices while keeping the essence intact.

We hope you are all as excited as we are to see the new products and recipe innovations Andy creates as Executive Chef of Few & Far Food Professionals. Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date!