‘I would never return to the UK.’ For a chef who grew up in an English pub, and who graduated through the hallowed kitchens of St John, Edward Delling-Williams doesn’t seem to miss too much about British life and work. To be fair to him, being weaned on the local bitter can be a experience that lives on longer than you’d like.
Moving on from his cheffing duties at Au Passage – where he continued the nose-to-tail concepts learnt at St John – last year, Edward heads up the kitchen at Le Grand Bain in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. Highly anticipated (as Edward’s approach while at Au Passage significantly ramped up the restaurant’s credentials), it has turned out to be a well-run restaurant of small plates and agreeable prices and a notable penchant for hearty vegetable dishes.
Which all means it fits into Paris’ rather democratic dining scene quite snugly. ‘London has more diversity,’ says Edward, ‘but Paris is more accessible for the average person to eat well.’ Bistronomie – the idea of good food in small portions – came about a several years ago as a response to the bistros giving Paris a bad reputation. The movement keeps producing Paris restaurants like Le Grand Bain, and doesn’t look like letting up anytime soon.
Small, independent restaurants are as Edward says a lot more viable in Paris, not only because of the way fait maison cuisine is ingrained in French culture. ‘It’s possible in Paris because it’s easier for a chef to buy or rent cool cheap bistros, whereas any venture in London is expensive now. It leads me to believe that the scene in Paris will catch up and even overtake London in terms of creativity.’
These notions of buying and running a relatively laissez-faire, homely little joint, are perhaps unattainably romantic for the UK. Same goes for some of the day-to-day practices in Paris. ‘A lot of restaurants will have chefs who personally go to the market to pick up produce,’ says Edward. ‘Which is something very, very cool and inspiring. Whether that’s transferable to London, I don’t know.’
Since moving over The Channel with the want to ‘learn another language and experience French cooking,’ Edward has found Paris to be a good place for a young chef. His advice for those wanting to do the same? ‘It’s really hard to find an apartment someone will rent to you,’ says Edward. ‘So be ready for this huge obstacle.’ As for hunting for work abroad generally? ‘I would say go, for sure. It’s not just a good experience for your career, but for personal development it’s amazing. I love my life here in France. If I was ever to leave Paris, it would be to another country – definitely not the UK. There’s so much to see and do, I would feel like I was going backwards.’
Images courtesy of Le Grand Bain.
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