Alan Coxon – award winning Chef ,TV Presenter, Author, Speaker, judge and many more
Alan Coxon is an multi award winning Chef ,TV Presenter, Author, Speaker, judge, Consultant and Food Archaeologist. He has a lot of experience in the industry. Read his breathtaking story here.
You are a well-known as experienced multi award winning Chef ,TV Presenter, Author, Speaker, judge, Consultant and Food Archaeologist. For those who don’t know it; what does a Food Archaeologist do?
I absolutely love the historical aspect and origination of ingredients . I strongly and firmly believe that to have a fuller understanding of the ingredients we use makes us far better cooks . Today people talk about a local, regional ingredient with provenance, I like to take this one step further and investigate the very origin of the ingredients, trace them back to their original birthplace and try to understand the complete journey through time to where a product sits today. How ingredients have often been transformed from their original uses such as medicines to becoming culinary delights and entering the world of gastronomy.
We then have the additional exciting aspect of food archaeology that traces back the creation of recipes themselves, social history ,and the culinary influences and innovators that have transformed food and society over the centuries.
As a chef you always like to take on challenges; what is your actual challenge?
I appreciate your observation as I very much like to challenge myself as a chef.
It is very easy to sit back and baste in the glory of past achievements , however I do like to challenge myself and that of my own competency and skills level ability.
Please excuse the analogy, but cooking is a moveable feast with new trends and influences and over the years I have seen many come and go It can also be said that sticking with what you know is a safe option, however for most of my career I have always tried to not only keep up with innovation but I have tried to lead it !. Needless to say when leading there will always be the risk factors and the dangers of what could be seen as failure ( a fact of life but never seen as a good thing for anyone’s career !) . It is this potential risk I think that fires the adrenalin.
I was the first chef to open and ran the largest hotel in Europe in Paris, with 1098 rooms leading a brigade of 68 International chefs , I created a globally unique ingredient and food range ( based on a 15th century recipe ) that took 10 years to get to market. I was the only British chef to be invited as representative of the World Chefs Summit in Monte Carlo and to deliver a canapé for the announcement of the “Best 100 Chefs of the World”! and needless to say a wonderful challenge to create a canapé for the world’s best chefs. I delivered the main course for a 8 hand dinner at the 5 star hotel in Venice alongside two Michelin star chefs ! where needless to say I needed to ensure that my culinary contribution not only met but exceeded that of my 2 Michelin starred colleagues !, I took on the challenge of delivering a ted x speech followed by a 1 hour speech to 800 chefs in Kiev, the list of challenges go on and of which I hope will continue to be a driving force within my career.
You hold masterclasses in Lithuania, Ukraine, Slowenia and some activities in Moldavia. While doing so, do you have the time to get to know as well the local cuisine?
Yes I do, and one of the great privileges of my activities and position allows me to travel, explore new territories, meet new people, sample new ingredients, thought processors, ideas , combinations and of course some historical influences.
I always try to allow an extra day at least on my travel plans and work commitments just to spend visiting various locations, restaurants, food markets, vineyards etc.. I am always delighted by the kind and generous people that I meet on my travels that want to show me around, expose their home, country, history and life. This aspect is one of my greatest pleasures in life , the formation of so many happy memories .
You are a Multi award winning Chef; which awards was most impressive/ important for you?
I must admit that every one of them has a special place and meaning for me and it is always hard to put one over the other, however there may be a joint 1st place , one of them being the Hotel and Caterer magazine “Gold winner of winners award”, where I initially was up for an Innovator of the year award , pitched against many leading household food producers brands and names , all of them multi million pound businesses with teams of development chefs and research teams, so it was with immense personnel delight to take this Gold award. However what I did not expect was that there were 11 different categorise within the awards held at the Dorchester hotel, and the Gold winner of each category were then placed and pitched against each other accumulating in the Gold winner of Gold awards. It was therefore an incredible feeling to have been announced as this winner with my own innovative food range.
My second award that hits the top two, was for my Fat sculpture at the International Salon Culinaire where I submitted my piece of work alongside 28 other international chef competitors ( including the Culinary Olympic teams from three different countries ) . I was therefore delighted that my piece was declared the winner.
As mentioned all the others have a large place in my heart but the aforementioned just added an element of surprise and strong moments of pride.
You have as well lots of experiences TV Chef and Presenter. Today there are so many chef/ culinary formats out there. Any format you are missing/ you would like to create one day?
I love doing TV and I have created many TV formats past and present, alas it is seldom about creating a good format but more about funding it !. Creating something new is also a challenge as several of my formats do not directly fit into metaphorical boxes that have been created , despite my request for thinking out of the box!, offering something with a point of difference, taking the viewer on a new and different journey. Alas whilst I take risks as a self-employed individual to further what I see as advancement, many in paid safe work environments are a little more cautious about risk taking. I have been told so many times that they like my ideas, however their viewers want more fly on the wall style formats , big brother, get me out of here, bake off etc etc…!?!.
I am still pushing ( and have been for more than 10 years now) my ideas involving and incorporating the origination of ingredients and the foods we eat . The Dr Who of food if you like !, and then I would also like to do a series of documentaries featuring the lives of the most influential chefs of all time, people like Alexi Sawyer with an incredible lifestyle and career who created the first ever canning process for the royal navy, was good friends with Florence Nightingale and created the first ever portable cooker for the front line soldiers in the Crimean war, created and installed the first no solid fuel oven at a Reform club in London where royalty and gentry would come from around the country to visit his kitchen , he dated the wealthiest singer in the world and was the first ever “posh and becks” of the Victorian era , designed his own chefs attire, created products for cross and Blackwell that we still use today, and died a pauper. There are many chefs and past culinary influences with rich and engaging life stories ! a form of “Who did you think you were”. Now please tell me that this would not male fantastic viewing !??.
You have many engagements in the UK, such as Honorary Patron for UNICHEF UK, Member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and Member of the Guild of British Food Writers. How would you describe the modern British Cuisine today?
British cuisine is one of the most diverse and eclectic in the world. It is a leader of fashion, and embraces the entirety of global cuisines and ingredient s from around the world . There is no other country in the world that offers such diversity and range.
One miracle; why are there so less British restaurants out in the world/ other countries?
Britain has embraced the world and its diversity of cultures and gastronomy, alas in this process it has diluted the understanding of its own offering. We have also only just started to win the long standing battle of negative attitudes towards that of British gastronomy but finally there has been a near global turnaround of our culinary reputation thanks to some of the excellent chefs we now have working across the UK. The positive reputation of British chefs are now on the global platform and long may we continue to lead the way and build upon this success.
You are author of 5 cookbooks, ( 2 award winning), what would be a next topic for your next book?
I have been in the process of writing a new book for the past two years of which was stimulated by some research I did on Ayurveda. Ayurveda Drs claim that 99% of all ailments we suffer are caused by fuelling our bodies with the wrong type of fuel.
In order for me to test this I decided to act and trial the theory. I suffered with several issues such as arthritis and often would have to take pain killers and anti inflammatory prescribed by my Dr of which both of which led to several additional issues. By removing all the ingredients that were not in my personal Body fuel type ( despite my enjoyment for them) I managed to remove arthritis and pain completely. Now avoiding tomatoes, white potatoes , aubergines ( basically all deadly nightshade family) , beer , green grapes, champagne, white wine, etc.. ( ho yes I enjoyed all the aforementioned before) but have resolved my issues 100%.
On this basis I have created 13 questions that if answered honestly will give you your own fuel type.
You will then have a list of all the ingredients within your fuel type with all recipes for your fuel type.
Where it does get a little more complex is if you suffer from a pre-existing issue, such as headache, migraine, back ache etc as there may be ingredients within your fuel type that you will need to remove to resolve such issue.
If this method could help me I feel it could help millions of people around the world, after all if we put Diesel fuel into a patrol car, the breakdown and costs will be imminent !. If we look at our bodies like an engine and fuel it accordingly we will all need less medication to help combat the issues, less pain , less loss of work days, less costs to the NHS , the list of positives goes on !!.
As winner of 6 Gold International awards for Innovation & product development; what innovations did you create?
I initially created a range of historic Vinegars and a unique Ale Gar. The three products were based around a Roman Vinegar an Ancient greek vinegar and a soured Ale ! called Ale Gar !,.
I then proceeded to create and additional 34 other products all derived from the aforementioned mothers !.
Alas I launched the first three products officially during the very week that Global recession was announced, as they say its all about timing !. My Ale gar is still there and I am building up good customer base slowly and gently supplying a variety of countries. When the Uk and other parts of the world are ready, then so will the Ale Gar!
Any country in the world you would like to work/ learn from.. culinary, if you would have the time?
I am open to travel to almost anywhere, travel broadens the mind, opens and creates ideas and opportunities and I have been very lucky to have had the opportunities to travel so extensively, although only the other day I noticed that I have never been to central America, Cuba, Chilli or Argentina, etc.
What is your most important advice for young cooks, to become a successful chef?
Be a chef because you love food, you enjoying cooking for others, you get excited about seasonal fresh ingredients and you see the job as offering creative and business opportunities, you want to learn grow and develop and get excited about the business.
Regional, seasonal, healthy food.. becomes more important all over. So far, less guest are asking where their food comes from. Do you think that will become the big topic soon; that restaurants list the source of their ingrediencies?
Absolutely, this is happening in many parts of the world already. It shows that care and interest has been taken in sourcing the products, it helps promote farmers and producers whilst building a positive relationship with them, it helps promote, regional producers that adds a point of difference and interest for customers.
Not using the word TRENDS, but what are the large upcoming large topics/ developments in the kitchen next?
Daylight ! renewable energy! , recycling! , environmental working conditions ie temperature/extraction.
You worked in different Michelin star restaurants. The Michelin also started to award separately street food locations. How do you like this concept?
Whilst I am delighted that there is a recognition for street food and producers I feel that it should have created a new award section and not mixed it in with existing Michelin star recognition. I do not consider that cooking one dish well is comparable in any way to that of running a Michelin star restaurant with a full menu offering!
You did so much in the culinary world; one thing is missing so far; your own restaurant. Where would it be and with which specialisation?
Already had a restaurant that I owned and ran as chef proprietor in the Isle of Man. It was very successful and I miss not having one although I would operate it in a very different way to that of the IOM.
Thank you Alan!