Andrew MacKenzie knew that he wanted to be a chef before he had even reached his teens. This didn’t come as a surprise to his family, as two of his relatives were chefs. Andrew spent a lot of time with them in their large kitchens and as a ten year old, knew that was the ideal job for him too.
He said “Both of my uncles were chefs and I was inspired by them from a very young age. I was wowed by the big restaurant kitchens they worked in and dreamed of myself in that situation”.
Andrew’s first work experience was at a local restaurant in his hometown in Devon when he was 16. Growing up in the coastal village of Bampton, he always had a love of nature, the countryside and was able to make the most of the abundance of local produce on offer. “You really knew when the seasons changed by the food that was stocked or growing in hedgerows. One of my earliest food memories is picking and stoning damsons for my grandmother’s damson jam. It was an early form of child labour!” he laughed.
After training at Birmingham’s College of Food, he honed his craft by working for Allan Hill at Gleneagles and the infamous Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico and at Sevendials Restaurant (now Sam’s of Sevendials). Andrew settled in at Gingerman Restaurant at the boutique hotel Drakes, which was later refurbished and rebranded as The Restaurant at Drakes when he took over as head chef.
We asked Andrew for some of the most memorable dishes he ate while growing up "My gran made an amazing chicken soup. It was a bit like Cock-a-Leekie. She made a huge pot of it and it would last for days. But I also remember it tasted better as the days went by."
"One of my uncles lived in Italy, so that got our family into Italian cookery. We ate lots of lasagne and other delicious pasta dishes."
Although Andrew has cooked for many famous people, he most enjoys cooking with his family. With a young three year old, Hetty, he’s keen to get her experimenting in the kitchen.
"Hetty loves to help out and even though she's only three, she says she wants to be a chef like her Daddy. She likes to get stuck in and helps with cakes, stirring porridge and loves helping out to make millionaires shortbread."
We saw how much Hetty enjoyed making Andrew’s delicious spiced festive plaited wreath. Making bread is a very tactile experience, but one that kids of all ages can get stuck in with.
Kneading is a wonderful activity and helps children’s co-ordination. To help kids knead dough, hold it with one hand yourself and then get your child to push the dough away from you to stretch it. Together you can bring the dough back into a ball and stretch again. Continue kneading together until the dough is springy and stretchy.