> Chefs

Andrew Gravett

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.

Three things you should know

Andrew believes scones should be served at the end of an afternoon tea to not have the feeling of being overly full. He also gives a jar of his Palm Court jam to take away with them afterwards.

Andrew Gravett cites Philippe Givre and Frédéric Bau as the two most influential chefs he worked with at Valrhona.

While Andrew appreciates that pastry requires a more emphasised focus on presentation and how a dish looks, flavour always comes first – something he drills into his pastry chefs at The Langham.