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Graham Hornigold

Graham Hornigold

In his role as executive pastry chef, Graham oversaw the pastry sections of Hakkasan's portfolio around the world including Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sake No Hana and HKK as well as a development and production kitchen which produced as many as 12,000 macarons and 1,200 intricate cakes every week. He was responsible for over 120 pastry chefs working in twenty different kitchens. Graham acknowledges that it was difficult to control consistency from afar, but he loved the challenges that the different sites brought and was in constant communication with his head chefs.

As well as the difficulties of running multiple kitchens, Graham faced the problem of creating desserts that sat well on an Asian menu and that weren’t too heavy or sweet. ‘People tended to over-order in Hakkasan restaurants and the food had a lot of strong flavours – chilli, oyster sauce, soy sauce – we had to look to sharper, cleansing elements or unexpected ingredients to attain salivation rather than relying on sweetness.’

The result was a selection of literally mouth-watering desserts that looked ultra-rich and decadent but were deceptively refreshing and light. For example Yauatcha’s signature petit gateau, Rose delice, is a divine chocolate mousse cut with the acidity of fresh raspberries and HKK’s Trio of chocolate dumplings is served with a cleansing infusion of yuzu and ginger that is poured over the dish at the table. Both these desserts were Graham's creations.

Graham credits some of his previous head chefs with forming his career but he also acknowledges the role that his older brother Simon played in the early days. In the years he spent at TVU in Slough, Graham was also working at The Lygon Arms in Worcestershire and as he didn’t have a car, his brother would drive from St Albans to Broadway every Saturday night to pick him up after service and take him home to St Albans to make sure he could get to college on Monday morning.

Tragically Simon was killed in a car crash in 2006 along with Graham’s other brother, Ian. Graham now runs the marathon each year in memory of Simon who completed the 2006 marathon in aid of Wellchild. ‘I say I run the marathon but my guys say, ‘Chef, you just walk it!’, but I don’t really mind as long as I’m raising funds and awareness for Wellchild. Everything I do and put back into this industry, it’s for my brother; without him I don’t think I would have made it as a chef.’

After twenty years of hard graft and inspired creativity, Graham Hornigold is at the very top of his profession. He continues to work with the very best restaurants to make their dessert and pastry offering the best it can be, which can only be a good thing for pudding lovers everywhere.

If your kitchen was on fire, what would you save and why?

My favourite chocolate AlungaTM 41% milk – it’s a slightly sweet milk chocolate that has been through the Q fermentation process. It goes really well with mango, passion fruit, honey, caramel and fleur de sel.

What is your favourite ingredient?

Fresh fruits when they are bang in season. If you asked me which season, I would choose summer and if you asked me which fruit, I would choose peaches. You can’t beat a ripe peach cooked perfectly.

What is your guilty food secret?

Jasmine ribs

If you could only eat at one more restaurant in the world, which restaurant would it be?

My favourite restaurant, DBGB in New York for beer and sausages. But if I had to choose somewhere I hadn’t been before I would say The French Laundry for its setting and culinary history.

What would you be if you weren’t chef?

A Graphic Designer

Who is your culinary hero? And what would you cook them if they were coming round for dinner?

Marco Pierre White for his influence and his legacy – so many of his chefs have given so much to so many. I would probably just give him our tarte tatin and vanilla ice cream to see if it passed the test!

Who would be your fantasy dinner guests?

My two brothers who are sadly not with us any more and some of my old teams, just to catch up

What is your favourite food shop or market?

Brockley Market and Borough Market in London for the energy but I also love little town markets so would have to include St Albans market which I used to work on with my best mate Toby, even though it was on the china stall!

What would your death row meal be?

Homemade Thai beef salad

What is your favourite cookbook?

Patisserie by Pierre Hermé and Dessert Cuisine by Oriol Balaguer – it inspired a generation

What’s your top cooking tip?

Read the recipe through first and get ready

What is your favourite foodie destination in the UK?

Anywhere in London

What ingredients are really worth forking out for?

Good quality meat and fish

What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

Abalone

In your opinion, what is the most underrated ingredient/cut of meat/fish?

Milk fed veal is lovely but you never see it

Which dish would you like to be remembered for?

The Yauatcha window! Or the improvements in pastry across Hakkasan group and the chefs we created. For me, it’s about making pastry chefs so that when I am old and grey and hang up my boots, there are more of these guys who are still producing and creating and teaching in the same way.