’5Questions’ ~ The Journalists, Andy Hayler

So far in this series we have only had views from the professional writers, this time it is from a food blogger. But not any ordinary food blogger, no, we have given the ‘5 questions‘ to Mr Andy Hayler. Who, in December 2008, was widely reported that he was the first person to eat in all 68 three Michelin star restaurants in the world by completing the task with his meal in Per Se, New York. He also has had a book published called ‘London Transport Restaurant Guide‘ as well as contributing to various other publications.

Mr Hayler leads a some what double life, as in his main occupation he was involved with the petro-chemical industry with Royal Dutch Shell which lead to the founding of data warehousing company Kalido. But it is his hobby which we are more interested in. Apparently it all started when he decided that he would give haute cuisine a second go & went for a meal at the legendary Jamin Restaurant of Joel Robuchon in Paris. He said in The Times;

I thought to myself, ‘I know it will be disappointing so then I won’t have to go again. But it backfired because it turned out to be the best meal I had ever eaten and got me hooked on high-end restaurants.

After his feat of eating in 68 three star restaurants, he echoed the views of many in the industry concerning the UK’s contingent of 3 star eateries,

I don’t think Gordon Ramsay or the Waterside Inn have been three-star level for some time now and even at their peak they were only mid-range three star. I don’t think they are that inspiring. The last meals I had there were both pretty ordinary.

Here are Mr Hayler’s 5 Questions;

1.How do you feel the change in the media interest in chefs has influenced the industry?

In general I think it has been a positive influence, since it has fuelled a much greater level of interest in food in the UK than was the case some years ago, and this has led to a demand for higher grade products from the public e.g. the organic movement.  To balance that, there is a rather negative effect in that many young chefs seem to want to achieve celebrity for its own sake rather than by producing outstanding food.  It is interesting how often now when I visit a restaurant that the chef is not cooking, but “doing a cooking exhibition” or “doing a TV slot”, whereas it would be rare indeed to visit a top restaurant in France and for the head chef not to be there.

2.How do you see the future of the printed media in the industry, with what seems the relentless march of blogging, social networking and the general internet?

I think that the printed media will continue to struggle.  There is now so much high quality restaurant material available for free on the internet, some of it written by very knowledgeable people with a clear passion for food, that the columns in the newspapers are being relegated to an entertainment sideline, where people read them for their prose rather than for anything they have to say about the food.  I suspect that it is also a generational thing.  A young foodie friend of mine summed it up neatly when I was complaining about a particularly inept restaurant review in a national newspaper: “Oh, do people still read those things?”.

3.What is your view of the guide books, relative to their impact and influence on eateries & the general public?

I think that the Michelin and the Good Food Guide still have an important role, as while one may not agree with everything they say, they are a genuinely independent assessment of restaurants. It is interesting just how much more interest there has been in the superb food in Japan since Michelin started its guides there, for example.

4.What advice would you give to an aspiring chef or restaurateur looking to raise their profile?

I would just be happy if they concentrated on cooking great food for their customers, using the best possible ingredients.  Their profile will follow if they are genuinely good.

5.Who or what, do you think will be the next 3 big things to watch out for over the next 12 months?

I think the influence from Japan will continue to impact on UK chefs.  As an example, you are seeing more restaurants now beginning to serve primarily, or even exclusively, tasting menus rather than a la carte.  This may not to be to everyone’s taste but does mean that the chefs can focus on the best ingredients available to them, and is a style of serving that is normal in Japan in high-end restaurants.

I hope we can move beyond the Harry Potter cooking of molecular gastronomy, where ingredients are treated with chemicals so they assume forms that nature never intended, and move back to trying to find the finest ingredients and treating them respect.

I would like to think that, as the economy recovers, that a few chefs at least will try to be more ambitious in the culinary sense, rather than just knocking out bistro food at high profit margins, but UI suspect this is a wish rather than a realistic expectation.

We would obviously like to thank Mr Andy Hayler for his time doing the ‘5Questions

His food based blog with reviews of all the restaurants he visits, can be found here: Andy Hayler’s Restaurant Guide

And he can be found here on Twitter

2 Responses to “’5Questions’ ~ The Journalists, Andy Hayler”
  1. Tina Payton says:

    Andy Hayler is an over rated foodie. The fact that he ate at all 3 michelin stars is honestly good for him but utterly irrelevant to human kind evolution. The fact that Andy does not publish all comments sent to him does make of him a one man show, completely enclosed in his own little PR bubble and not really connected to the rest of the foodie world.I have stopped reading his useless writings since they are redundant: you know way in advance what he will like and what he won’t. Way too much credit is given to that guide when in fact, he is bringing absolutely nothing to the culinary world

    • chefhermes says:

      Many thanks for your comment, as you can see we publish all comments that have a relevance to the post. You weren’t the only one to question why we sent the questions to Mr Hayler.
      Whilst many ‘foodies’ may not rate the Michelin guide, the unfortunate fact is that it is highly rated by the catering industry and the prefix of ‘Michelin starred chef’ can raise a media profile of a chef in a way no other guide can.

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