Andy McLeish

Andy McLeish

Andy McLeish

Andy McLeish takes the field to fork ethos seriously, hunting and butchering his own game to ensure his menus at Chapter One offer the finest of local ingredients treated with respect.

Growing up in Nottingham, Andy McLeish knew he wanted to become a chef right from the moment he cooked his family Christmas dinner while still in primary school. He was fascinated by Take Six Cooks, a popular cookery programme in the mid-1980s, and would experiment himself in the kitchen from an early age. His parents were supportive of his choice, but society slightly less so - back then it was still virtually unheard of for boys to take on a domestic science qualification at his school, and his mother and father had to fight for him to be included on the course.

After completing catering college in Nottingham Andy worked under Nico Ladenis - one of his former Take Six Cooks heroes - at bistro Simply Nico and Chez Nico, Ladenis’ three star fine dining restaurant. He worked at The Ritz as sous chef before moving to the Mandarin Oriental Baan Taling Ngam in Koh Samui, Thailand taking the role of senior sous chef. Andy McLeish later returned to London to head up the kitchen at The Landmark in Marylebone, gaining three AA rosettes within his first year of working there.

In 2001 Andy accepted the role of executive chef at Kent’s Chapter One restaurant. The chef rose to the challenge, and in his first year of working at the Orpington-based restaurant Chapter One was awarded a Michelin star, retaining the accolade for over ten years. In 2003 Chapter One was named the AA’s UK Restaurant of the Year, gaining four AA rosettes that same year.

Andy cooks with confidence and aplomb, creating innovative, often robust dishes that do not rely on overtly fancy touches or tricks to impress. His cooking could broadly be defined as modern European – his plates are sophisticated but uncluttered - and he believes that there should be no more than three flavours competing within a dish. Menus change with the seasons, highlighting the best of available local produce along with ingredients and flavours from further afield - dishes such as Treacle cured salmon with lemongrass and ginger purée hint at influences from his time in Southeast Asia.

His penchant is for game, and, unsurprisingly, his favourite season is autumn. Andy is a keen huntsman and much of the game found on the menu has been shot by the chef himself, meaning diners can be sure that they are getting something ethically sourced from field to fork. His love for the season shines through in the variety of thoughtful game dishes on the menu (he is, after all, one for experimenting), with the colours on the plate reflecting the autumnal golds, deep greens and purples of the surrounding landscape. Think Roast loin of venison with butternut squash, girolles and roast Treviso, Poached and roasted pheasant with Savoy cabbage and roast parsnips and Roast wood pigeon with pithivier of leg, served with creamed curly kale and roast Jerusalem artichokes.

Provenance remains key, and he is an outspoken proponent of local produce (Kent is, after all, the garden of England). Kentish lamb, Nyetimber wine from West Sussex and even local mineral water from Kingsdown all appear regularly on his menus, and the chef often discusses the quality of Kentish produce in his own food writing, regularly contributing to InsideKent magazine and the Borough Market blog. Seafood is also sourced locally, often from Broadstairs, and Andy McLeish routinely takes trips out with the day boats to help catch fish for his menu. This process reminds the chef of the importance of sustainability, and he can guarantee to his customers that the seafood they are going to be eating comes from the finest possible source.

This hands on approach to ingredients is evident in much of the restaurant’s produce. As well as being an avid hunter Andy McLeish is a keen forager, gathering ceps mushrooms from the nearby forests and growing plums, apples and cobnuts in his own garden. After shooting the game himself Andy also does his own butchery, ensuring no parts of the animal go to waste. Such is his dedication and passion for sustainability that the chef routinely holds ‘field to fork’ masterclasses, where attendees can learn the basics of game butchery through a demonstration and workshop, followed by a three course meal. In the spirit of minimising wastage, Andy also explains the different cuts of meat a deer will yield and the best way of cooking them to encourage full use of the animal.

Andy oversaw the launch of Chapters, Chapter One's sister restaurant, in 2012. A thriving all day dining restaurant in Blackheath, Chapters served high quality food (including fish smoked and cured in the kitchens at Chapter One) in a casual, stylish setting, with a varied and reasonably priced menu. Chapters was very successful for five years, but in 2017 Andy decided to refocus his efforts on Chapter One – buying the restaurant outright and getting back into the kitchen full time.

Andy's commitment to his ethos is as strong as it is admirable. As well as being in the best interest of the environment - ensuring sustainable and ethical methods of farming, fishing and production - it is a promise to his customers, too. With the chef’s passionate involvement at every stage diners can be confident that - in every sense - their meal comes to them from the best possible place.