Paul Askew, Chef Patron The Art School Restaurant, Liverpool.
Where are you from?
I was born in Sunderland, but am very much an adopted Scouser, having lived in Liverpool since the age of 4 and a half.
What is your first food memory/souvenir?
Grandmother Askew was a very good, old fashioned cook. Sunday lunch was always a real favourite, indeed every visit was eagerly anticipated. My particular favourite was a minced beef and onion short crust pastry plate pie. It was always hand-made pastry, proper real food. My own mum was also a good cook and I have very fond memories, nothing fancy, just cook honest home cooked food.
What’s first dish you learned to cook?
The first dish I ever learned to cook was a chicken biriyani. It was on my travels, with my father at the age of 11. I remember being fascinated by the different spices and smells coming from the kitchen, curiosity got the better of me and I went in, and joined in.
When did you first start cooking professionally?
My first job in a commercial kitchen was at the age of 15, so I guess I’ve been cooking for over 35 years now.
How would you define “Maverick”?
For me, one of my favourite expressions that I apply to my team and occasionally myself is “eccentric genius”. I get as much of a kick out of merging a team of mavericks together to deliver top class food and service as I do to creating a new dish or finishing a Saturday service.
Which Mavericks have inspired you?
There are many people in our industry who we could describe as mavericks. they come with different ideas about cuisine, service, drink. I think the mavericks are what makes this industry interesting. From a culinary point of view, I’d have to say the Roux brothers, I think you could describe them as mavericks – starting the food revolution in Great Britain. I think Marco Pierre-White is probably the ultimate Maverick of our industry; anyone who can win 3 Michelin stars and promptly hand them back at the end of it must be considered a legend!
The other mavericks that inspire me are the producers we use. Our butcher, our fishmonger and salad suppliers – all of them show a dedication that to many borders on the obsessive. Their knowledge and dedication is what sets them apart from the rest.
What is your favourite element of preparing a dish/menu?
When I’m preparing a dish I work on five elements, the main protein, the main vegetable, but to support that you’ve got to have colours, flavours, textures that support the dish and provide the balance.
What about Charles Heidsieck do you most identify with?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the chalk cellars and the house but absolutely the first thing that appealed to me is the quality of the juice in the bottle. It’s probably the best tasting I’ve ever done. I tasted five wines back to back and there wasn’t one in that five that I didn’t enjoy. Every one of them made me sit back and go wow, this is off the scale.
It was at a time when I was looking for a champagne that would sit side by side with my philosophy and ethos and what I was trying to achieve with the restaurant and after that tasting I just knew it would be Charles Heidsieck.
Why did you want to be involved in the Maverick Encounters?
We’re developing something of a maverick business in Liverpool, so it fits us perfectly. We are doing something in our home city that’s unusual, challenging and trailblazing. We’re trying to show that gastronomy is going to a new level in the city.
What are your most ‘maverick’ qualities?
It’s been said I have a great sense of humour towards life. I observe the pitfalls and peaks and troughs that life throws at you from time to time. I think the maverick approach I have towards human beings as well as towards ingredients and dishes is probably what makes me slightly different to most other chefs. If someone proves themselves to me, they’ll have a friend for life.
How has working with Charles Heidsieck inspired you as a chef?
The restrained protection of quality as well as the pursuit of excellence sits so well with me. All I’ve ever done throughout my career is pursue quality so I’m thrilled when I find something, like Charles Heidsieck, that matches so well with my food. It’s so balanced it just oozes quality and fits in so well with The Art School.
What experience can the guests attending expect?
A gastronomic delight with one or two little maverick touches that they may not expect but overall an experience that will truly stick in the memory for all the right reasons. We’re determined to show why Charles Heidsieck, Paul Askew and The Art School fit so well together and that Liverpool is an up and coming force in the world of gastronomy.