Chef Q&A - Andrew Pern
Kate Foley talks to Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern of The Star Inn at Harome and The Star Inn the City
How did you become a chef?
I was born in Whitby and my parents and all my family are farmers apart from me. I’m the odd one out. When I was eight years old unfortunately Mum got MS, and Dad said, ‘You can stay in and help your mum.’ It was quite appealing to be in a nice warm kitchen rather than out in the pouring rain with my hand up a sheep’s backside. I’m still cooking and nobody else is still farming, so I think I chose the right path.
Where did you train?
I went to Scarborough Tech, which is now Yorkshire Coast College, to learn the ins and outs of proper cooking. I trained in classic French and went off to near Fontainebleau and Saint-Émilion. Obviously with the Michelin star my passion is French gastronomy and what the people have got in the depths of Burgundy, their cuisine de terroir if you like, I’ve tried to do with the ingredients of Yorkshire and the North East. We’re the envy of the catering world up here; my friends and neighbours are some of the main suppliers to half of Knightsbridge and Mayfair.
Do you remember what you made during your first shift in a professional kitchen?
It was something like Florida cocktail and egg mayonnaise. Something struck me: ‘Why have I been to college for three years and off to France and I’m doing egg mayonnaise?’ Needless to say I didn’t stay there that long.
Who is your chef inspiration?
Keith Floyd inspired me, I liked his style. You can probably read into that a bit more. The Roux brothers – I did the Roux Scholarship when I was about 20. I wasn’t a million miles away from winning it – they always say, ‘You were the one that got away.’ I got a message this morning from Michel Roux Jr, congratulating us on winning the Michelin star.
You held a Michelin star for nine years before losing it, how did that feel?
The catering trade is quite close-knit. Everybody knows what’s going on, and unfortunately when we lost the Michelin star I felt like an outcast, and a bit of a reject. We had spent 15 or 20 years building up the place and all of a sudden just to have that taken away was quite odd. It’s massive, to be aiming for something like that, and once you’ve had something it’s the worst feeling in the world to have it taken away from you. In a way you’d rather not have had it in the first place.
So what happened last week when you found out you’d got it back after three years?
It’s like winning a gold medal in the Olympic games. When we won it back everybody was in floods of tears. My other half thought somebody had died – I couldn’t speak. I was on the phone, and I told her and she started crying and then I rang the Head Chef and he started crying. People have said we’ve got more pressure now we’ve won it back, but it was more of a release than anything. I think that’s why everybody was so emotional about it.
How did you find out you had got it?
We found out on Twitter, which in downtown Harome isn’t that easy because there’s a very bad signal! We actually found out about three quarters of an hour after it had come out. Other guide books have different regulations and they tell you where you’re going wrong. Michelin don’t tell you anything. You get no feedback whatsoever about the Michelin star. You go to your local WHSmith, and if you’re in it – with a little rosette – brilliant, buy every copy and tell the world. If you’re not, put it back on the shelf and go to a dark room.
What did you do to get it back?
I’m quite a competitive sort of guy and it’s definitely not the taking part, it’s the winning with me. We couldn’t understand and we were quite aggrieved about losing it, so we just tried ten times harder. Between Steve Smith, who’s my Head Chef, and me we never missed a shift in the last three years since we lost it. And it all paid off and we’re all happy again! But it is quite traumatic really, it’s hard work.
What’s your favourite dish?
I love game, this time of year really suits us. The signature dish is the grilled black pudding with pan-fried foie gras. It’s our number one seller and has been on the menu for about 16 years.
If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Probably lobster. If I was on a little island it would be alright because then I could catch lobster, and it would fill the day in as well.
Where do you like to eat out in Yorkshire?
The Pipe and Glass is a great place. James Mackenzie used to be my Head Chef here at the Star, so he’s obviously quite a like-minded person. I like our sort of local, regional style.
If you could eat in any restaurant in the world, where would it be?
My favourite place is Alain Ducasse in Monaco, a nice, quiet, shy, retiring sort of place! I would like to go to the French Laundry which is in the Napa Valley. I used to book all the holidays around restaurants but I’m a bit more easy going nowadays. Too many kids to tell me off.
What’s your kitchen like at home?
It’s quite big. We’ve got a big kitchen table because of all the offspring. There’s an Aga and an electric oven – you need both. But they don’t get used a lot because I live about 42 steps away from The Star Inn.
Did you have a big party to celebrate regaining your star?
We’ve got one next Sunday. We’re celebrating in style, don’t worry about that.
The Star Inn, Harome, North Yorkshire 01439 770397
The Star Inn The City, Lendal Engine House, Museum Street,York 01904 619208