Andrew MacKenzie's early childhood food memories

Andrew MacKenzie's early childhood food memories

by Great British Chefs 18 December 2013

Continuing our look at how the award winning chefs from Great British Chefs cook with their own children and their own favourite childhood food memories. Andrew MacKenzie uncovers his very early influences and shares what he looked forward to eating at Christmas.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Andrew MacKenzie knew that he wanted to be a chef before he had even reached his teens. This didn’t come as a surprise to his family, as two of his relatives were chefs. Andrew spent a lot of time with them in their large kitchens and as a ten year old, knew that was the ideal job for him too.

He said “Both of my uncles were chefs and I was inspired by them from a very young age. I was wowed by the big restaurant kitchens they worked in and dreamed of myself in that situation”.

Andrew’s first work experience was at a local restaurant in his hometown in Devon when he was 16. Growing up in the coastal village of Bampton, he always had a love of nature, the countryside and was able to make the most of the abundance of local produce on offer. “You really knew when the seasons changed by the food that was stocked or growing in hedgerows. 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!” he laughed.

After training at Birmingham’s College of Food, he honed his craft by working for Allan Hill at Gleneagles and the infamous Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico and at Sevendials Restaurant (now Sam’s of Sevendials). Andrew settled in at Gingerman Restaurant at the boutique hotel Drakes, which was later refurbished and rebranded as The Restaurant at Drakes when he took over as head chef.

We asked Andrew for some of the most memorable dishes he ate while growing up "My gran made an amazing chicken soup. It was a bit like Cock-a-Leekie. She made a huge pot of it and it would last for days. But I also remember it tasted better as the days went by."

"One of my uncles lived in Italy, so that got our family into Italian cookery. We ate lots of lasagne and other delicious pasta dishes."

Although Andrew has cooked for many famous people, he most enjoys cooking with his family. With a young three year old, Hetty, he’s keen to get her experimenting in the kitchen.

"Hetty loves to help out and even though she's only three, she says she wants to be a chef like her Daddy. She likes to get stuck in and helps with cakes, stirring porridge and loves helping out to make millionaires shortbread."

We saw how much Hetty enjoyed making Andrew’s delicious spiced festive plaited wreath. Making bread is a very tactile experience, but one that kids of all ages can get stuck in with.

Kneading is a wonderful activity and helps children’s co-ordination. To help kids knead dough, hold it with one hand yourself and then get your child to push the dough away from you to stretch it. Together you can bring the dough back into a ball and stretch again. Continue kneading together until the dough is springy and stretchy.

Even if children are too young to handle the plaiting in Andrew’s loaf, they can easily roll out the dough into “snakes” and watch you plait before having a try with off-cuts of dough themselves. You can see more of Andrew and Hetty cooking together in our Cooking with Kids video.

Andrew will be spending Christmas Day with his family and his mother in law is cooking, although we imagine he'll be getting involved in some preparations too. He has fond memories of Christmas as a child. "We used to have huge family get togethers. Ones where our usual dining table was too small and all the kids would sit together on wallpaper tables. We had very traditional Christmas dinners, with a lot of planning. The Christmas cake would be made in November". His family clearly believed in the Stir Up Sunday tradition.

We asked Andrew if had any tips to get kids to eat vegetables. He suggested some delicious and fun tomato and vegetable risotto faces. He said, “I like to play a game and get kids to close their eyes. They then eat part of the face and have guess which bit they’ve eaten. It’s an ingenious way to help kids forget their aversion to veg!” You can also challenge children to see who can make the funniest face with the vegetables on their risotto.

Luckily Hetty isn't a fussy eater. "She's eaten lots of vegetables from day one and also lots of fruit. She loves risotto but like many children doesn't really like strong flavoured food. Also she's a big fan of fish like smoked salmon and mackerel."

If you'd like to get your children, into the kitchen, we'd suggest making and decorating the animals in Andrew’s Gingerbread safari park. As well as fondant icing make sure there’s plenty of extras available for them to choose from – sweets, silver balls, sprinkles … anything to add that extra fun factor!