Chef Anthony Cumberbatch is an award-winning Michelin Star trained Head Chef with over 30 years of international culinary experience.
He has worked under distinguished chefs within some the most prestigious London restaurants and began his professional career with the legendary Anton Edelmann at the Savoy Hotel.
In the 1990s he was appointed Head Chef at acclaimed Westbourne Grove restaurant Palio by his mentor, the English restaurateur and celebrity chef Anthony Worral-Thompson.
A professional philosophy rooted in fusing classical French technique with tropical flavours and contemporary flair has been elemental to Chef Anthony Cumberbatch‘s successful career and the legend-creation of many restaurants including Bamboo Grove (Chef and Proprietor), Bubba’s, Caribbean Scene,
The Ivy, Opium, Quaglino’s and Veranda.
He has developed a lauded global reputation for creating innovative and refined Modern Caribbean cuisine, full of authentic flavour and presented with elegant panache.
Chef Anthony has cooked for celebrities including George Clooney, Beverley Knight MBE, Jermain Defoe OBE and Jade and Sir Mick Jagger and prepared dinner for the Mayor of London at The Gherkin skyscraper.
Chef Anthony’s enterprise AC LAB has created and implemented many bespoke consultancy business development programmes which have ensured launch success and improved operations for a diversity of restaurants and food industry concerns.
His Private Dining clients include Premier League footballers, sophisticated home hostesses and special event celebrants of diverse demographics.
Chef Anthony Cumberbatch is a name and reputation trusted to innovate and cook for diplomatic missions, national supermarkets and global institutions including RIBA London and Tate Britain.
With Christmas 2020 festive eating out or inviting guests in being “cancelled” and British border issues striking food shortage fears into the hearts of the masses, the days leading up to most Britons‘ favourite annual dining experience are becoming increasingly stressful.
It seems an ideal time to ask Chef Anthony Cumberbatch to share his uplifting life story and teach us some invaluable home-cooking tips that will add flavour and cheer to restricted Christmas Entertaining.
Since Autumn 2020, Chef Anthony Cumberbatch has worked in partnership with AFRICA: Seen & Heard’s new Culinary Consultancy practice to innovate exciting historic and contemporary global diaspora concepts.
We deliver imaginative and unforgettable Experiences to a discerning and sophisticated corporate and community clientele.
WHICH CARIBBEAN NATION DO YOU ORIGINATE FROM AND HOW HAS IT CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR APPRECIATION OF FOOD?
I’m from Barbados. Orange Hill, St James which is on the west coast of the island.
I was born in Dulwich, London and when I was one years old I was sent to Barbados to live with my grandparents for nine years.
My granddad was a farmer and butcher. He used to buy and rear animals. We had from rabbits to chickens to ducks to pigs to cows to lambs and Blackbelly Sheep. Literally he had everything there, even turkeys. On a Sunday he would slaughter the animals and do the butchery of different cuts of meat.
My grandmother would wash the meats – this is a thing that we do in the Caribbean and African culture – and season them with exotic spice, herbs and seasonings.
She did the traditional Bajan Green Seasoning with fresh herbs from the garden, garlic again from the garden, onions, vinegar, salt, pimiento, pepper – not a lot of that and oil. She would blend the whole lot with a pestle and mortar, I don’t think we had blenders in those days, but she would grind everything down. My grandmother also did a brown seasoning which is similar to Jerk.
I think my childhood in Barbados did a lot to contribute to my appreciation of food.
Sometimes when I see how the farmers raise their meat and how they actually slaughter the animals it’s humane. My granddad used to hang the meat. When you hang the meat and drain the blood you get a much better texture and flavor of the cuts of meats that he prepared.
I think over here in the UK the meat is usually mass-produced: abattoirs slaughter the animals, butchers don’t hang all the meats here. In the meat industry, they generally put it straight out. It is often frozen for days or months before it is sold. It’s completely different. You can really taste the freshness of the meat if it’s hung properly.
My grandfather was like an artisan when it came to butchery.
I returned to London in the 1980s. Mum was a very good cook and also a baker.
She could cook very good pastry, she made her own pastries and stuff from scratch and made me appreciate the art of preparing food.
GROWING UP, WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE FAMILY DISH?
My favourite dish in Barbados was probably Seasoned Chicken which was similar to Jamaican jerk. Rice and Peas, Macaroni Cheese and a flavoursome home-cooked gravy.
Back here, there were loads of different things but I’ll give you two.
My mum used to make this beautiful Cheese and Onion Pie, but also she cooked Cou-Cou with a Saltfish Stew and salad.
Cou-Cou is like Italian polenta but has an African origin – I believe it originated from the Ga tribe in Accra, Ghana their fermented corn dish Banku is a very similar.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WISHED TO PURSUE A CAREER AS A CHEF?
I think I knew from a young age.
I did Home Economics at secondary school because I only had one year at primary to catch up to the people at secondary.
I actually blew up an oven during one lesson with a soufflé, so I sort of knew from then.
Then I did three years at Carlshalton College doing the City & Guilds 706/1 and 706/2 Diplomas in Professional Cookery. Most of the old school British chefs such as Gordon Ramsey did this course as well. Carlshalton College and Westminster College are very highly regarded colleges in the catering profession.
IN THE PROFESSIONAL AND YOUR HOME KITCHEN WHAT ARE YOUR ESSENTIAL PIECES OF KIT?
Always different types of chopping boards, colour-coded for Food Hygiene. I would say a good oven –I like gas as it regulates the temperature better – and a good hob.
I would say a food blender, obviously kitchen knives it’s what I have at home and work with, I always have them with me.
I normally have a mandolin and some good heavy-duty cooking pans.
I use cast iron for roasting and for steak I use a griddle tray.
Also a pestle and mortar.
WHICH INGREDIENTS ARE STAPLES OF YOUR SIGNATURE CUISINE AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT THEM?
There are too many to count, but definitely Pimiento and Olive Oil; I like to mix those two together.
White Wine Vinegar there would have to be Lemon and Lemongrass.
Lemon, always to wash meats and stuff with and Salt, again for washing.
If I didn’t have Pimiento, I’d use Black Pepper, I don’t really like White Pepper for some reason.
Without Olive Oil, I’d use Palm Oil. If I didn’t have Lemon, I’d have to use something acidic, it would definitely be a Vinegar, if not White Wine Vinegar, I would use Malt.
If I’m brining I use Malt Vinegar.
Without Lemongrass, I would probably use Limes and Lime Leaves.
Without Ginger, there nothing much you can really change it to.
I’d change up the dish and put Garlic.
WHERE DO YOU DO YOUR WEEKLY FOOD SHOP AND WHAT MAKES THESE PURVEYORS SO SPECIAL?
I can give you loads, but I use Waitrose in Beckenham.
I like that one because the demographics of people are pretty different. They are always at ease, there’s no rush, they’re always at ease. That’s why I go there.
Also, they have different stock from the other Waitrose branches. They also seem to have a lot more than the others and its very well-curated ethnic stock.
The same at Sainsbury’s SavaCentre; I use it as well. They have a lot of good ethnic stock there as well.
I’m talking from like Salted Fish, Kidney Beans, Gungo Beans – all the type of different pulses you can get from there. You can get anything there. Even Ackee they have.
I find that Tesco they have certain stuff there but not a lot. It’s very limited.
I go to William Rose in Dulwich (126 Lordship Lane East Dulwich London SE22), they are a traditional English butcher. People queue up from morning and all day just to get the meat from them.
The quality in there is very good.
I go to a fishmongers in Nunhead. They do everything from a squid all the way up to a lobster or a parrotfish.
You can’t get all of that in certain supermarkets. You have to go to the right fishmongers in a sense to get the proper stock that you want. I think they do shark and even flying fish. They get imported stuff.
Greengrocers, I usually use catering suppliers, but there is a good one in Herne Hill.
I buy different types of edible flowers and cresses there, they are called Seasons of England (292 Milkwood Road. Herne Hill. London SE24 0EZ).
They are very good, again the stock they’ve got there is exotic in a sense, but you can see the quality of it.
For instance in a supermarket you go for grapes and usually it is a small grape.
At Seasons you get the proper plump, plump grapes and the fruit and veg always seems to be a lot bigger.
They’ve got a lot of heritage and organic things there that I like.
I don’t really favour bakers, I liked a place called the Cake Store but they got shut down due to the pandemic.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL CHRISTMAS MEAL?
My ideal Christmas Meal going back to my mum’s day would be a stuffed capon.
I would go for a Three Bird Roast – I’d go for a capon, I’d stuff it with goose and I’d stuff it again with a chicken, but the brown meats, so you’ve got all the colours and textures of the meats.
When you cut through the roast, you actually want to see the different colours.
Stuffing I would probably do with chestnuts, I love nuts, so it would be chestnuts and cashews, not ground all the way down, roughly chopped.
I would use a standard sage and onion stuffing or make my own flavour – I’d put thyme, put a bit of scotch bonnet, a bit of garlic.
I’d probably put a bit of plantain or sweet potato through it to give a sweetness.
If you’re making stuffing use fresh bread, don’t use the packet Paxo stuffing.
I’d do a Three Cheese Macaroni Cheese with a Bone Marrow & Brioche Crust, – I roughly blitz the brioche and use quite big chunks of bone marrow and it’s actually quite nice – and roast some potatoes in goose fat, thyme and rosemary.
Definitely my signature Pigs in Two Blankets [a richly seasoned small sausage wrapped in thinly sliced fried plantain then swaddled in pancetta and baked to golden perfection] and a nice Port Wine Jus.
I’d maybe make the Jus with lavender to give it a nice twist or try ASH Culinaria’s festive pine resin concept.
For veg, I’d have to do Brussels Sprouts, with lardons and I’d make Cranberry Compote – perhaps with brandy – and add it on top.
I’d do Roast Parsnips and definitely Roast Carrots, they’d be honey-roasted and heritage with the different colours. They would look nice for Christmas.
I’d also do a Gungo Coconut Rice and Peas.
I think that’s probably enough.
For Dessert, I’d go back to my Pistachio and Chocolate Ganache – you can call it a slab.
The reason why I do that is because my mum used to do a Marble Cake.
It was chocolate and different colours, the greens, the browns because of the chocolate and then the white which was the vanilla. I just go straight to the chocolate and the pistachio.
I would probably do a Brandy Cream to go with it and also if you can get them, Maraschino Cherries.
If they are out of stock I buy fresh cherries and make my own Maraschinos.
You’ve got different flavours and textures going on there.
It’s like an explosion in your mouth when you eat it.
We’d have a selection of Drinks, my mum used to like Martini Asti Spumante, I like Bosco [an Italian white grape found in regional wines from Liguria] as well.
I like a selection of Wines, a like red, there’s a red wine that I love that has chocolate in it [Rubis Chocolate Wine] and a white, a Chardonnay.
I’d make a Bellini, probably with gooseberries – cook them down.
I also love Hibiscus, because it’s a Caribbean and African thing.
I’d have hibiscus with my champagne.
HOW WILL YOU ENSURE CHRISTMAS 2020 HAS AN UNFORGETTABLE TASTE & IS A CHERISHED EXPERIENCE? COULD YOU SHARE SOME TIPS WITH OUR READERS?
Firstly for taste, I would say brine the meats and marinate overnight.
Always for Christmas dinners, take your time.
Get up early, don’t try and get up at 10:00 or 11:00 and try to rush cook it.
They need to cook the meat for a good five hours or more on a slow gas.
If they want more colour, they can put the heat up and then take it down or take it out to get a proper colour.
Even with the potatoes and veg you can do the same thing, start off high and bring it down, that’s what I do.
I prepare the vegetables on the day and when I’m boiling the potatoes, I put herbs, garlic and onions, even celery inside of the water to give it some flavour.
The trick when you’re roasting them is to use enough oil. The problem is a lot of people don’t use enough oil when they’re roasting the potatoes, so usually they just stick to the bottom of the tin.
Those are my tips.
WHAT WILL YOU BE LISTENING TO WHILST COOKING?
I’ll be listening to some Soul and for this year I’ll be listening to a bit of Old School Reggae, not a lot.
Because my mum won’t be here this year, I’ll be listening to a bit of Doris Day or Dolly Parton to be thinking of her.
Also a bit of Elvis Costello and Elvis Presley, because my step-dad who I was brought up with for over 40 years, he used to listen to them.
He passed away last December, it’s a year and days now and my mum passed away in March.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS TIPPLE?
I’d have a Snowball, as a Snowball you can drink from morning till night.
I’d have a Snowball to start the day off.
Advocaat is good because it brings back memories from the ‘90s.
I like Bailey’s as well. There’s a beautiful Caramel Bailey’s at the moment.
I would add a tiny bit of rum and a tiny bit of brandy with it.
I’d end the day with that.
I’d make sure I’m not driving, make sure I’m at home or make sure I have a bed to stay in for the night.
DO YOU HAVE ANY GUILTY FOOD PLEASURES?
Pork Crackling, because it’s full of fat and I’ve got high cholesterol.
WHAT’S THE BEST MEAL YOU’VE EVER EATEN?
Ooh, the first one that comes to mind is at a restaurant called 24; 24 St George’s in Brighton.
They did a beautiful sea bass dish which I actually loved.
I went back to try and have it again but the restaurant had closed down.
The owner was a chef, I think the rent was too high so he left I don’t think he reopened again.
A second would be a fillet steak meal in Drake’s, again that’s in Brighton.
That’s where I had a second chocolate wine.
The wine was beautiful, it was nearly like drinking Port, but not as harsh as Port.
IF YOU WERE TO THROW A DREAM NEW YEAR’S EVE DINNER PARTY WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
A dream, you mean anyone?
Gordon Ramsey is one, Chef Marcus Wareing another.
I’d like to show them what Caribbean food is, not what they probably think it is.
I’d probably go for Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, I’d probably put her ex Eric Benét in there as well.
I would need a funny man in there: Kevin Hart.
I would have had Eddie Murphy but after what he did to my girl, Mel B, I wouldn’t have him again.
I would have the manager of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta because I’d like to have some strong words with him about the team.
Brenda Emmanus, because she’s my friend.
Beverley Knight because she might sing a nice song for me and also she’s my friend.
I think that would probably be it, I would not have a lot, I think that’s enough.
I would be the Chef or I would do the Menu and have chefs cook it how I want it to be cooked.
To my spec. I wouldn’t be in the kitchen.
I’d be at the table but make sure they have it down to spec to a tee.
DURING THE LOCKDOWN WHAT WAS THE MOST INSIGHTFUL THING YOU LEARNT BOTH AS A CHEF & A BRITISH CITIZEN?
The Lockdown, a lot of people say it’s a bad thing, a negative thing, I think it’s a good thing because I think it’s given people back their time.
I think we actually lost reality and we were in this big rat race which I don’t like.
It’s given me back my time; I don’t know about everyone, but it’s given me back my time.
I’ve had to obviously work in a different trade but I think it’s good as not everything is about money.
I was giving back to the community and giving back to the NHS what they did for my mum.
They helped my mum through her cancer which she had from 2012 and she passed away in March 2020.
I’m giving back to St. George’s Hospital and the other hospitals and the care homes.
I’ve given back of myself to them as a thank you and gratitude for what they did for my mum in a role assisting delivery of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
What COVID-19 has done to the catering trade and field, again I think it’s a positive thing.
I think in a sense lots of places are going to be closing down and shut down.
I think it probably needed it.
I think London as a whole, maybe even the whole world needed a revamp.
So, with good restaurants, they will stay not all of them obviously.
The ones that are not great and badly managed will obviously shut down and close down. They will have to close the doors.
When the Catering trade reopens properly, I think it will be a wow.
I think it will be different.
The good thing about it which I have seen from different restaurants in Balham and Dulwich, what’s happened its they’ve had tables serving outside in the road. Literally close to the road, because you can’t have 100 people inside, you have 50 people in and another 50 out, so it’s actually adapted to change which I think is good.
There are some funky ideas of how to make more space outside in areas which I think is actually quite good.
People have had to use their brains, but as a whole I think it’s a cleaner world right now with all this washing hands and sanitizing.
I don’t think a lot of people were doing it before, they’re probably still not doing it but I’m hoping that at least 90% are.
AS A CHEF, WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2021?
2021, I’m moving from my marital home on the 2nd January [prior to finalising his divorce] which I’m quite excited about to be fair.
I’m literally dancing inside my own body.
I’m looking forward to starting back doing the catering field properly as it’s been stop-start, stop-start, for the whole year because of the pandemic.
I’m looking forward – a lot – to hopefully travelling on a plane as I’m not going to go on a plane right now in the pandemic because a plane is a vacuum and if someone [COVID-19 infected] cough, you’re in it. You cannot run from it and when you’re up there in the air it’s heightened more.
I’m looking forward to getting a bit of sun, getting some Vitamin D on my body, proper sun.
I’m looking forward to new ventures and doing a lot of exciting catering jobs on the Events side.
I’m looking forward to going back to doing the weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, any type of celebration event, I’m looking forward to.
I think we as a whole, as a people, we’ve lost a lot this year, even family, friends, sick people.
We’ve lost a lot, so hopefully, touch wood there’s a brighter side to 2021.
I’m looking forward to exploring and presenting ways that I can still serve the community and new clients in alignment with government restrictions.
TRY YOUR HAND AT some Chef Anthony Cumberbatch Caribbean food favourites with recipes he created for Sainsbury’s celebration of Black History Month 2020 https://www.voice-online.co.uk/lifestyle/sponsored-lifestyle/2020/10/08/black-history-month-chef-anthony-cumberbatch-shares-his-caribbean-food-favourites/
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