Interview: David Everitt-Matthias
David and his wife Helen have have been running Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham since 1987. In that time they have been quietly amassing a range of accolades including two Michelin stars, which they have held since 2000.
Why did you become a chef – and where did you train?
My aunt inspired me. She was a great “hedgerow” cook. Aged seven, she had me standing on a pot stirring elderflower custard for her gooseberry crumble. I trained at the Inn on The Park in London [now The Four Seasons] for five years and during that time I went to La Tante Claire with Pierre Koffmann.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
Christmas dinner. We have eight to 10 friends around and all the men go into the kitchen on Christmas Eve, the girls go to church. We prep the veg and have a drink and play my vast collection of Christmas albums. I am very traditional, so it’s always turkey, Brussels sprouts and chestnuts. We will sit down at 4pm on Christmas Day and are probably still there at 4am, eating and playing games.
You are allowed to select four famous people, living or dead, to join you for dinner. Who are they? And where would you go?
Audrey Hepburn, jazz legend Chet Baker, Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov and Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. We’d go anywhere Pierre Koffmann is cooking.
What advice would you give a trainee chef?
Work hard with your head down, eat out a lot and gain as much experience as possible before becoming a head chef. Enquire! Enquire! Enquire!
Why do you like cooking with pure Canadian maple syrup?
It is versatile – it’s as good in desserts as in savoury food. It has a wonderful nutty flavour, which we use as a seasoning with bitter ingredients like chicory and white asparagus. We braise the chicory, squeeze it off, put it in the fridge. When an order is up, we heat butter, colour the chicory on one side and add a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup to caramelise.
What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
A few years ago, we were at a gîte in Honfleur on New Year’s Eve and we were barbecuing a rib of beef outside while it was snowing.