Andrew Gravett


Andrew Gravett

As executive pastry chef at The Langham Hotel in London, Andrew Gravett knows everything there is to know about baking. With a background in Michelin-starred restaurants and travelling the world working with chocolate producer Valrhona, he now showcases his creations at one of the finest hotels in the capital.

Pastry chefs are often the unsung heroes of the kitchen. They work just as hard (if not more) than the headline-winning head chefs, consistently producing things of incredible beauty and flavour, employing techniques unique to their craft. For Andrew Gravett, the executive pastry chef at The Langham in London, however, it didn’t take long for him to realise that the pastry section was where he was meant to be.

‘My mother’s French and cooks very good food, which probably played a part in wanting to be a chef, but there was never a particular moment or ‘spark’,’ he explains. ‘I was the only boy to do home economics for GCSE, so there must have been some determination to become one from an early age.’

With GCSEs over, Andrew went off to France to complete a four-year apprenticeship in Normandy, working in various restaurants and pastry shops. ‘I was only getting about 700 francs a month, which was about £70, for working six days a week, but I loved it,’ he says. ‘I had a pretty old-school boss who would throw plates and pans around, but he taught me how to work hard and I grew up massively. After another two years working in a pastry shop in Normandy I came back to England to work at Thackeray’s in Kent, which was owned and run by a chef called Bruce Wass. He really understood flavour; back in France things were done because that’s how they’d been done for years, but Bruce was always evolving and trying new things.’

A year-and-a-half later, Andrew decided to up sticks and head to London, landing a job at The Capital Hotel, around the same time Eric Chavot became head chef. Originally planning to just work in pastry for three months before moving onto another section, he eventually became head pastry chef after a year. A few years later, the restaurant received a second Michelin star. ‘Chef Eric is a good friend, but he drove me mad,’ Andrew laughs. ‘We had a team of eight pastry chefs for a restaurant with forty covers, and we were making absolutely everything in-house. At one point we had this tray of fifteen chocolate bonbons to be passed around at every dinner, and we had to make nearly 2,000 of them a week to keep on top of it.’

By this point, Andrew knew it was pastry he wanted to focus on above everything else. ‘I didn’t see any difference in cooking meat, fish or vegetables, but with pastry, you have bread, breakfast, jams, chocolate, desserts, ice creams – it’s endless. There’s always something new to learn with pastry; cooking meat, fish and vegetables wasn't for me.’

Working with Eric was the most influential part of Andrew’s career, and he stayed at The Capital for eight years. ‘I learned about caramelisation, how to get the maximum flavour out of ingredients, to reduce sweetness – his cooking is the best I’ve had. He would send me off to France to learn how to make jam, chocolates and ice creams, and his high profile led to my next job with Valrhona.’

Valrhona is one of the most highly regarded chocolate manufacturers and used by almost all top pastry chefs, so it was a dream move for Andrew. Over the next seven years he worked in chocolate development around the world, getting to grips with the science behind pastry and truly understanding how ingredients work in combination with one another. ‘I learned about cooking from Eric at The Capital, but for understanding pastry and really delving into the technical side of it, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work than Valrhona,’ he explains.

On his return to England, Andrew initially helped out a friend at a pastry shop for a year before deciding to take time off from professional cooking for the first time in his life. ‘I became a taxi driver in Sittingbourne, which I absolutely loved,’ he says. ‘I’d work for eight hours a day, then go home and wouldn’t even think about work until the next morning. I also worked at a ready meal factory, just to see what it was like. Whenever I was training chefs I’d say, ‘work like you’re on a factory line’, but I wanted to experience it first-hand.’

With his curiosity satisfied, Andrew felt the call of the kitchen once more, and when he heard Cherish Finden was leaving The Langham in 2017, he applied to take over as executive pastry chef. Since then, he’s been making the menu his own, looking after every aspect of pastry across the hotel and its restaurants.

‘We completely changed the style,’ he says. ‘Cherish did fantastic, beautiful things in her own way which I tried to keep doing for a few months before realising it just wasn’t for me. We started going back to basics, serving really classical dishes like Paris-Brest and opera cake, but using some of the techniques and tricks I’d learned during my time at Valrhona. We aim to make our desserts lighter by reducing sweetness and fat where we can both through ingredients used and methods in production. The last thing you want is a heavy dessert at the end of a meal that leaves you feeling uncomfortable, but you still want that indulgent, delicious flavour to round things off.’

It’s clear that Andrew is an incredibly talented pastry chef – after all, he’s in charge of one of the most famous afternoon teas in London. He’s working hard on making the vegan, gluten-free and other free-from offerings the best they can be, ensuring every visitor to The Langham gets to taste his creations, and enjoying the creative freedom the hotel gives him. The taxi rank’s loss is certainly the pastry world’s gain.