Andrew MacKenzie

Andrew MacKenzie

Most mornings on the Sussex coast, fishermen in lonely boats lope out into the sunrise – whether the waters are placid or rough – and they bring home some of the best seafood in the world. Cooking out of The East Sussex National Hotel, chef Andrew MacKenzie has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal – and few have made as much of the opportunity.

Andrew MacKenzie was always destined to be a chef. Both his uncles were professional chefs, and Andrew would spend time with them in their kitchens, banging the pans from the young age of ten. ‘I was inspired by them from a very young age,’ he says. ‘I was wowed by the big restaurant kitchens they worked in and dreamed of myself in that situation.’

It was no surprise to anyone, then, that Andrew was working at a local restaurant by the age of sixteen. The Exmoor countryside near his home town of Bampton is a forager's paradise, and it was here that Andrew’s appreciation for good British produce originated. ‘You really knew when the seasons changed by the food that was stocked or growing in hedgerows,’ he says. ‘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!’

After completing his training at Birmingham College of Food, Andrew threw himself into the deep end, working with Allan Hill at Gleneagles, befor taking up a position in the brigade at Nico Ladenis’ iconic restaurant Chez Nico. In Allan and Nico, Andrew found two mentors who would help to shape the elegant cooking style that made him a huge success later on, when he settled in his own kitchen at Gingerman restaurant – later The Restaurant at Drakes – in Brighton.

In the years since Andrew has become a true authority on the produce of Sussex, with many speciality dishes that revolve around the amazing meat and fish in the area. In 2017, he moved to The Half Moon in Kirdford, West Sussex, to work alongside Jodie Kidd in the newly refurbished village gastropub. In 2018, he moved to The East Sussex National Hotel.