Alex Corley Diary for Alyn Williams at The Westbury 2015

Posted on 29 June, 2015

Diary for Chef Stagiaire – Semi Finalist

Name: Alex Corley

Restaurant: Alyn Williams at The Westbury, London

Marinated langoustine mackerel scallop kiwi cucumber arrow grassDAY 1

Getting the opportunity to work at Alyn Williams was an absolute privilege. The first thing when I arrived that took my focus was the setting, set in the heart of Mayfair in the Westbury Hotel, Alyn Williams restaurant, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

The first day, every chef, from the minute I walked in made me feel welcome.  I spent most of my time on the larder section on day 1 where I learnt a lot of new ingredients and ways to prepare them and cook them. The chefs on the section where kind and helpful to my experience here which made it even more enjoyable and informative. My personal favourite element and dish was the aerated foe grois, blew me away on presentation and skill. What made this interesting for me, I had never heard of the idea of aerated foe grois, served chilled from the freezer. It was served with pickled beetroot, pistachios and brioche. The pickled beetroots were cooked in their own juices to really enhance that main flavour. It was prepared very differently to what I have seen before. They use a special machine that turns the beetroot while slicing, so it comes out in perfect ribbons. Never seeing that before interested me. The brioche was a little rectangular finger, then it had a small parisienne scoop taken out the top of them. Then once charred on every side on the grill the holes where filled with a delicious sour cherry puree. It was gorgeous!! My favourite dish by far.

alyn williams at the westbury 2015When it came to the service Alyn Williams allowed me to have my own tasting menu. I tried every dish they had on the tasting menu which was really kind of everyone to prepare this for me. The dishes where sensational, and what really caught my attention was the amount of elements on each dish. Each dish consisted of at least five to six elements that combined together where delicious. I would say my second favourite dish had to be the pigeon, just on the style and the amount of elements on one plate, it astounded me. It was roasted pigeon, with white asparagus charred on the grill, poached onion shells filled with a curry mayonnaise and cucumber. That dish was amazing!! The other main course was lamb nicoise. Coming from a classical kitchen in my earlier years, dishes like that really interest me and you can never go wrong with the classical combinations in my opinion.

 

DAY 2

On my second day I again spent most of my time on larder, doing mise en place throughout the day. Whatever job was thrown my way I took on, but as most of the jobs I had done before there were some jobs that I had never seen before and wrote down for future interest. That is what I found good about the week, there was quite a lot of methods and ingredients that I had never come across before but that was the main point of the week, to see what a Michelin kitchen was like and to learn about different produce.

DAY 3

alyn williams at the westbury 2015 #2Day three was different. I spent time on larder but also helping out on the vegetable section which for me was quite familiar as that is the section I work on at Colette’s. Also watching over the fish meat and sauce section. That really interested me because I have never been on that section before so to ask questions and be explained how to cook meat and fish blew me away. Obviously every kitchen has different methods on cooking meat and fish and how to hold meat once cooked, but to give some information on how the restaurant I work at does it and compare it to how they do it interested me and some of the chefs that worked there to. I loved to watch Alyn Williams at the pass, watching how he ran service and plating up. I was watching a master at work.

DAY 4

Day four consisted of me working on pastry. Learning about the breads, deserts and the canapés which come from the bread section. See as you go from kitchen to kitchen you see different ways of kitchen set up. The restaurant I work at has the bread sent from pastry and the canapés has a separate section. Alyn Williams had four different breads when I was there which amazed me. Everyone different and unique in their own way.  The deserts blew me away, every desert was originated from a classical dish but had Alyn’s twist on it. My favourite had to be the strawberry pavlova with anise hyssop, the flavours where sensational and also never hearing of anise hyssop before opened my eyes to a new ingredient. It was a real aniseed taste like fennel or star anise, really strong on the palate. The dish was on the tasting menu and watching the production of all the elements on the dish amazed me. I think being on the pastry through the last couple of days interested me the most as I have never even touched pastry in any restaurant I have worked at. I have done simple classical deserts at college but not the level of quality like here. Alyn allowed me to try the deserts, this really engaged me into the flavours and how every element on the dish combined with each other and looked stunning.

DAY 5

The last day was, to me, the best day, definitely. Not because it was my last day but the day that the most happened in my eyes. Saturday I had to cook for Alyn Williams and his Sous Chef. I prepared a fennel gazpacho for the amuse bouche and then my poached cod with spring vegetables for main course. Alyn and the Sous Chef tried them. Personally for myself I wasn’t 100% happy with what I produced but in the end it came out very close to how I wanted it. It was really helpful getting feedback from Alyn because he didn’t just focus on the good things he gave me some really constructive criticism which in my eyes really helped me and I took a lot away from it. Obviously getting feedback from a chef like Alyn Williams you’re going to take every bit of feedback and improve on them later in life will hopefully help me. I never thought in years that I would have the opportunity to have a Michelin Starred chef such as Alyn Williams try my food so I am so grateful to Chef Stagiaire Award for giving me that opportunity. To end a great day during service I was asked to help out in service, including plating up one of the star dishes on the 3rd course of the tasting menu, the foe grois. I really got into it as the Saturday night service was a lot more hands on because of the volume of covers we were serving. I really got on with every single chef in that kitchen, all of them made me feel like part of the team. Alyn made it a terrific experience for me and one I will never, ever forget!!!

Alyn Williams’s tasting menu literally blew me away from start to finish. This is what I tried. Through the week i got to prepare and learn every element and method in creating these dishes.

  • Marinated langoustine/mackerel/scallop/kiwi/cucumber/arrow grass
  • Monkfish/ramsons/kohl rabi/morels
  • Aerated foie gras/beetroot/sour cherries/pistachio
  • Barbequed Holstein tartare/Mersea oyster/mustards/grelot
  • Glazed pigeon / white asparagus / dukka spice / turmeric yoghurt OR Herdwick lamb / niçoise / tomato / tagette
  • Cheese selection
  • Meyer lemon/caramel popcorn/vanilla
  • Strawberry Pavlova/anise hyssop

Alex Corley, Chef Stagiaire Award, Semi Finalist 2015