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My Favourites

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What’s cooking?

We ask some of the best chefs in Sussex to spill all about their work, lives, and recommendations for eating well locally. Dishing it this week is Johnny Stanford from AG’s Restaurant, Alexander House near East Grinstead.

Your first catering job?

My first job in a kitchen was as a pot washer / prep chef at a local event catering company when I was sixteen. Definitely opened my eyes as to what kitchen life was really like! 

Career highlight? 

When I first held a position in a Michelin starred kitchen – the attention to detail, organisation and cooking techniques was something that I instantly fell in love with.

Sum up your cooking style/ food philosophy? 

British produce led, technique driven yet uncomplicated.

Most memorable moment at work? 

Cooking for the chefs Sat Bains, Daniel Clifford, Claude Bosi & Andrew Fairlie and their partners in the private dining room 21212 in Edinburgh.

Ever cooked for anyone famous? 

Ewan McGregor when I was working in the Lake District, I asked the restaurant manager to ask him to sign my lightsaber! 

Your biggest mistake at work? 

Forgetting to put salt in the bread the day of a Michelin inspection, I’ve never re made anything so fast in my life! 

You’re tired, starving and impatient: what do you cook for dinner? 

After work Doritos & Hummus or more realistically whatever the kids didn’t eat and is left over from their tea!

What would you cook to impress a date? 

Fregola pasta ‘risotto’ with Crab and Spring onion was the first thing I cooked to impress my girlfriend Sophie. We’ve been together almost 6 years and have two kids now so it must have been good. 

Favourite chef? 

Too many to pick just one, but Simon Rogan, Sean Brock and Glyn Purnell would definitely be up there.

Favourite cookbook? 

At the moment its Rogan The Cookbook by Simon Rogan, Alinea by Grant Achatz and Manresa by David Kinch. All chefs who I really admire.

Favourite type of cuisine? 

Japanese and Korean.

Favourite kitchen gadget? 

Loving our Yakatori BBQ right now, I love the different ways they can be used and the smoky flavour you get from them is amazing.

Some of Johnny’s exquisite food

Favourite local café? Restaurant? Hotel? 

The Set restaurant in Brighton has an incredible tasting menu, Heritage by Matt Gillan within The Chequers in Haywards Heath – they now have rooms so you can stay over and Japanese restaurant Bincho Yakatori in Brighton – all amazing places to eat out, run by amazing chefs! 

Your three favourite local markets and suppliers? 

Sussex beef and Cider from Trenchmore, sparkling Sussex wine from Ridgeview and Chefs Farms – which is an ethically and sustainably sourced marketplace for professionals.

Favourite things to eat when you’re on holiday? 

Anything shellfish related, sushi, gin and sour beers!

Alexander House Hotel

What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make? 

Overcomplicating dishes with too many flavours and ingredients.

Favourite ingredient and why? 

Either alexanders (seeds which have an intermediate flavour between celery and parsley for the non-chefs amongst us!), or sweet cicely, a sweet herb. Both are forgotten ingredients and native to the UK with the most incredible flavours.

Most over-rated dish/ ingredient? 

Saffron or green peppers. Just awful!

The romantic AG’s

The dish you’re most proud of creating. 

A 12 hour braised Trenchmore Wagyu brisket with wild garlic, BBQ beer pickled onions, milk curd – beef tartare & a cold whey sauce. It’s the amazing produce that helps make the dish! (Muddy is dribbling ever so slightly).

Tell us your best ever cooking tip? 

Mise en place (preparation) saves you a*rse! Basically its all in the prep and if you prepare as much as you can beforehand the cooking part is easy.

Three dishes every home cook should master. 

A good curry – meat, fish, or veggie, a fish pie and a lasagne!

AG’s Restaurant is open for dinner from Thursday to Sunday and for lunch on a Sunday.

Alexander House Hotel & Utopia Spa, near East Grinstead is a 5 Red Star hotel with divine spa facilities, plush rooms and a whopping 120 acres of peaceful grounds.

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