Sean Burbidge cut his teeth at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay / Paul Winch-Furness

As The Ivy Soho Brasserie opened in London last month, Sean Burbidge, executive chef of The Ivy Collection, talks about food waste, what he keeps in his cupboard and what he thinks about the prospect of fine dining delivery apps

How do you make your food at the The Ivy Collection innovative while keeping the values of the restaurant?

The Ivy is known to serve classic dishes, combined with international influences. We try to apply the same philosophy with The Ivy Collection’s menus, so sometimes we might add just a little twist to the dish, and some other times we go off piste, like with the massaman duck curry.

How do you choose your menu and ingredients?  

We always have British classics on the menu, such as the Shepherd’s pie, but we also try to add healthy, trendy and more innovative options for those who like to try new things. We try to incorporate something new through both new dishes and existing dishes with a new selection of ingredients such as green papaya. An updated dish we have featured recently has been tempura prawns with green papaya edamame with wasabi and matcha tea sauce.

Who inspires you at the moment? 

Dan Barber – his wastED projected is quite inspiring and we should all try to contribute.

Which Ivy Collection site is your favourite and what’s your favourite dish there?

All the restaurants are great; they are all slightly different and each has its own particular characteristics – asking me to choose would be like choosing your favourite child. The Ivy Chelsea Garden is perfect for summer with its amazing garden, The Ivy Café, Wimbledon Village, is more intimate. The Ivy Soho Brasserie will certainly have an amazing buzz.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Always making sure that all the restaurants are receiving and delivering a high-quality product, with a consistent level every day. 

How do you deal with difficult requests and what’s been the most bizarre?

We try to accommodate every request if possible, and we take the time to deliver the product to a high standard. The most bizarre request I had was for a vegan afternoon tea. 

Where did you train and why did you go into the business?

When I was 15, my parents asked me what I wanted to do when I left school and I said either being a chef or joining the navy. My parents contacted the best restaurant near where I lived and I started working there on Saturdays, from 9am to 5pm, then Sundays and Fridays after school. I absolutely loved it. I also did an apprenticeship but it’s at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay that I really learnt the trade.

Where do you go to eat when you go out?

I like The Clove Club for exciting and creative food and Little Social for dinner with friends as there are always some exciting things on the menu to please everyone. It would to have to be Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for immaculate food and service.  

How does The Ivy Collection compare to other places you’ve worked? 

I have mostly worked in Michelin-starred restaurants where the menu was a little more complicated, so not for everyday meals. The Ivy Collection offers an accessible menu for everyone, anytime of the day and for all occasions.

What do you cook to impress someone?

Perigord truffle linguine with parmesan foam.

How do you cook rice? 

To be honest I use a rice cooker; they are not expensive and cook rice to perfection every time. That means I can concentrate on getting other things done as the cooker keeps the rice warm until you’re ready to serve. 

What’s your ultimate cooking tip for home cooks?

Always season water when boiling vegetables and don’t try to do too much at once. One dish cooked nicely is better than a lot done badly. 

Is there a knife or kitchen appliance you couldn’t live without?

My bread knife and a Bamix hand blender 

What is your favourite store cupboard essential? 

Definitely pasta. If you have pasta in your cupboard you can always create something for dinner 

If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Mediterranean. I think that includes most of the things I like but I would miss a good curry and the odd bit of sushi 

Do you have a guilty pleasure like baked beans on toast?

Bacon and egg sandwich with HP sauce 

Do you think high-end restaurants will start using delivery series like Uber Eats or Deliveroo? Or would this type of service ever affect the restaurant world?

I think the problem lies with keeping up the quality of the product during the delivery and to deliver dishes to the standard that high-end restaurants are associated with is hard as you do not have control on the state of the dish once it reaches its destination.

That being said, when I was running Petrus we had a regular guest whose butler would come to the restaurant and order dishes to takeaway to bring back to the house, which was literally over the road.

What do you think will be big this year in the food world?

I think this year there will be a big push on reducing food waste and a bigger focus on utilising everything that is produced – covering all sectors, from farms to supermarkets and restaurants.

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