Masterchef S03 ep1 : Phil Howard, The Square Restaurant, [London]

Interview with Phil Howard

A chef’s chef, Howard is rarely away from the stove and has won numerous accolades including two Michelin stars (awarded in 1998) & the BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year 2008. Afterstudying bio-chemistry at university, he signed up for an apprenticeship at Roux Restaurants before working with such heavyweights as Simon Hopkinson and Marco Pierre White. Known for his classy, but seasonal French food, he has spent much of his career nurturing young chefs and enjoys showcasing his protégé Brett Graham at his other restaurant, The Ledbury in Notting Hill


We started just over the other side of Picadilly. Nigel Platts-Martin, my partner and I we
spent a very boozy evening about 10 and half years ago thinking about what we should call
this place and it was just the name because it was just down the road from the St. James's
I'm doing because I love it. I started cooking when I was at university where I was studying
away to be a microbiologist, and I just got into it, I loved it, it is just great fun.
I completed my degree, and I left university and I went straight to France. I thought right I
am going to dump myself right into the deep end and I went right into the middle of the
Some friends had been to this place and they said they knew something about being a
chef, come down and have a look, and so that is what I did for a summer and I thought
yeah that was it.
It was a small kitchen very rustic genuine French cooking, in this beautiful old chateau in
the middle of the countryside, using seasonal and local ingredients.
Cooking is just one of those wonderful organic processes, better chefs have an absolute
understanding of what is going into the dish, what is going into the pan. All the processes
of cooking are something that you get incredibly involved with.
And so I came back and I applied to the obvious people.
…and I managed to get in bed with the Roux brothers.


Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

I was talking to somebody again yesterday, about foie gras why do we all use foie gras,
why does everybody have so much foie gras on the menu now and that is because the
gene pool that we all draw from is the Roux Brothers.
I then went to Harvey's. That was a significant experience. I was virgin territory when I
started with the Roux Brothers. I had no college experience I had amassed no other
knowledge. And so I was very concerned, not concerned, I just did not want to get too
moulded into my first job. I did not want to develop any sort of shell that was going to be
hard to break out of and Marco at the time, I happened to tap into his kitchen at the
absolute prime year.
You look at the enormity of that man's character and influence on this town and you ram
all that back into his beat so to speak and distribute that into his kitchen, no bigger than
this room. All that energy was and not even that it was on 50 or so plates that went out of
that kitchen.
He had the ability , Marco, and he would be very honest about it with you, of identifying,
he is very classical, identifying fantastic combination of flavours from wherever it might be
in the world, sort of Top French cooks something now that is fantastic. Taking the essence
of a dish and without exception improving it both in content and presentation so what you
are getting on the plate was the most beautiful food that had ever been produced in the
country and yet you cannot take out of the equation just him. You will never be able to
repeat the Beatles or the Stones, he represents to cooking what they represented to music.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

To achieve that final 10% of perfection you need to cut all the emotional content of cooking
and get a strategy. Stop playing around everyday with different ingredients, and stop acting
on spontaneity, getting people to understand what you are doing, getting them as fluent as
possible in doing what they are being asked to as quickly as possible. And right now at the
Square we are on that boundary.
Of course I would love to have that third star because that is it still for most of us, cooks,
what we recognise as being the ultimate accolade, and from a personal point of view who
wouldn't want to have it and every time you make progress you get up to the next step you
view changes and you see the next thing. Once you have got he second star you get up to
that step and unfortunately the final at this stage is three stars.

Jewellery Theatre Elements

At the two star level, you tap into the best of both worlds. You have lifted yourself up and
above the one star riff raff as you say, that is severe I mean, you have put yourself
significantly in the lime light and most importantly from a business point of view you are
now tapping into the people who spend big money on wine.

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

My belief is classical, all be it modernized and lightened up a little bit but traditional
cooking will always live though any fashion trend. All I care about is that you walk out of
this place happy and I'll serve people whatever they want .
If someone wants a well-done steak well they get a well-done steak, I am really not fazed.
It is about - you know all that bit is ego, and once you get ego out of the equation it is the
right thing to do - to give the customer what they want.


OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Phil Howard, The Square Restaurant, [London]