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Alexander Volev

Alexander is head chef at our St Paul’s venue. He joined our team in June after working in various establishments in England and Ireland. Alexander has travelled extensively and developed a great understanding of world food and traditional British cuisine. He has also worked for a charity teaching budding chefs the joys of cooking their own meal. Alexander is passionate about food but also loves sharing with others the experience and skills he has gained over the years.

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Interview

Tell us a little about your experience as a chef

My career as a chef started quite late, in my mid- twenties. Before that, I travelled around the world. This gave me the opportunity to meet different people, discover new flavours and cuisines. My first experience in a professional kitchen was in New-Zealand and this is where I realised I wanted to get more involved with food. I later moved to Ireland and enrolled on a professional cookery course at the Dublin Institute of Technology. From there, my career as a chef brought me to London where I worked under the guidance of Jonny Haughton. The way he ran his Gastropub was an inspiration to me: the menu changed daily, only fresh and seasonal ingredients were being used and our creativity and understanding of food was challenged all the time. I then worked for a charity called The Kids’ Cookery School (KCS) which I enjoyed immensely. Before joining the team at L’atelier des Chefs, I was head chef at The Earl Spencer in Southfields, London.

What attracted you to teaching?

I had the pleasure of working at KCS teaching children how fun and easy it can be to prepare your own meal and I really missed that. I wanted to share my experience and expertise again, to show people how cooking can be fun. I am also concerned that modern life is causing the loss of this vital life skill. I believe making your own food is cheaper and better for you. To me, cooking is a lot about giving pleasure through food and I feel people that don’t cook are missing out. The real satisfaction from my job is to know that I can give people the confidence to cook properly and share it with others.

What is your signature dish?

During my career I have had many opportunities to cook elaborate dishes which were nicely presented. However, when I am at home I much prefer an informal approach to my cooking. My favourite dish would be a spiced slow roasted shoulder of lamb, flatbreads, homemade pickles, charred aubergine dip, red pepper and feta relish and a minted yoghurt. To me it’s a very nice way of eating as everybody can help themselves in a convivial and relaxed atmosphere.

What is your favourite class to teach and why?

I particularly enjoy teaching both Thai and Japanese classes. Thai, because of the bold flavours used such as the really salty fish sauce, the pungent shrimp paste, the palm sugar, and the sour lime… when they’re correctly combined together a kind of magic happens! I also enjoy teaching Japanese cuisine because of the really clean flavours. It’s the sort of food that leaves you with a clean feeling on your palate and not too full!

What advice do you have for budding chefs?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, experiment with ingredients and flavours. Do some research to make sure you get good books written by good cooks that can also write and convey their recipes in a way that will help you to build your confidence in your own kitchen and achieve great results. Ps: Keep your fridge CLEAN!