Chef Name: Olivia Burt
Title: Head Chef
Annual Award of Excellence, 2016
Roux Scholarship National Finalist, 2019 & 2020
MasterChef the Professionals, Finalist, 2019
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I was 18 when I left school and decided to go to cooking school, at that point if I am totally honest I was not planning to be a professional chef, I just really loved food and wanted to learn more.
I began to private chef when I was still 18. My first professional position was for Joel Robuchon in his 2 star on the Champs Elysees when I had just turned 19.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
As a child I always found food so exciting and interesting, and loved cooking in any spare time that I had, when I was younger it was much more about baking, I am pretty sure it was just because I had such a sweet tooth.
I was in Italy when I was a child and I remember having Tiramisu for the first time. When we returned home, I must have made it every week trying to replicate it. It is still one of my all-time favourites.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
I have been inspired by many. From the very start of my journey, I have been drawn in by peoples’ attitudes in the kitchen more than anything, how they manage people and treat each other. General respect in the kitchen is massive for me, and I have seen a huge lack of that in times too.
Working under Simon Rogan and Dan Cox at Fera was the biggest wake-up call I had, I felt excited to be going into the kitchen every day, learning about the best quality ingredients and cooking epic British food.
Chefs who will give you the time of day regardless of who they are, sharing their knowledge and giving advice is actually what really inspired me. Tommy Banks, Tom Aikens and Paul Ainsworth are a few that have shown this to me.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Usually running around at a hundred miles an hour across all corners of the UK, cookbooks are one of those things that – like all chefs – I love to collect, but sadly don’t have too much time to read.
I have a book I’ve had since I was a child, by Mary Berry. I think it’s her baking bible – it’s epic, every recipe works perfectly every time. It is my go-to for birthday cakes.
The second would probably be Simon Rogan’s cookbook. I love the way it is laid out, and having worked for him for three and a half years he is a huge inspirational power house for me, with his massive promotion of rare British ingredients and foraged wonders.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
It is so hard to think about just 2 when there are so many, but the first would definitely have to be Kosher Salt, it is unlike anything else. I use a diamond crystal coarse cut and it changes the way I cook completely. My chefs will know how strongly I feel about only using this in the kitchen.
The second would be sweet white miso, I love the way it can change through both sweet and savoury cooking and the depth of flavour that it brings.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
I love experimenting with sourdough and the different ways it can change and develop into so many different aspects of the kitchen. Sourdough has a strong pinpoint in the restaurant.
For me throughout lockdown, experimenting with different savoury breakfasts has been a huge thing. When the restaurant is open I don’t usually have breakfast so it has been so nice to have this time. I am loving buttermilk flatbreads at the moment with soy eggs and charred cavolo nero. Soy sauce for breakfast is the most comforting thing in the world.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
It would have to be somewhere in Japan. With such a long time since I have travelled, or eaten in a restaurant actually, there is so much I feel I could learn from Japanese cooking methods and techniques. There is something so special from eating in a Michelin restaurant, the atmosphere, the love and attention to every detail.
And who would you take as your guest?
All I want to do it be with my friends and experience things together. I would never be able to choose just one person. I love to share these things with so many friends and family.
What do you look for in a good chef?
I look for passion in the kitchen. Being a chef can be one of the most exciting experiences. I want my team to love what they do and have a good time doing it. A very much needed respect for ingredients and what you are doing, and the rest will come with being in a good team with good leaders.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Patience. If you love cooking you have to give it time, it is a journey of learning, respect and passion. You have to make sure that you are always learning still in the kitchen, and most importantly enjoying what you are doing. Cooking can take you to so many amazing places and enable you to meet amazing people. Most importantly, don’t worry if you are not sure where you want to be in 5 years, just enjoy the journey and work hard.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
I think like most it has been a whole world of new for us all. I am not sure I expected things to be quite as they have. I have been very set on making sure that this year / these years have not been ‘paused’, and have tried to keep moving forward in a positive direction. After the first lockdown in 2019 I moved from Claridge’s after nearly 5 years, to begin a new chapter.
I think this pandemic has taught us a lot about how we can adapt in our industry, from curfew to outside dining and the rule of six.
For us this will be a constant change for the future. I am excited of course to get back to what we all hope will be normal soon at the restaurant.
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
I think it would just be to make sure that you are enjoying what you are doing and make sure you are still learning. When I started on my journey when I was 18, I would never have imagined I would be where I am now. I always knew what style of food I liked and wanted to learn more about, but not always how I was going to get there. My food is constantly changing and evolving as I move through different places in life and get older. I have changed many times over in myself too, as I learnt how to become more confident in the kitchen and learnt how to make the very best of most situations. Working in a kitchen is not always easy, and it takes time to learn that.
Chef Olivia Burt is Head Chef at Stanley’s Restaurant
Address: 151 Sydney Street, Chelsea, London
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7352 7664