William Drabble is the Executive Head Chef at the iconic St. James's Hotel & Club in Mayfair, London, United Kingdom.
William, where does your passion for cooking come from?
I suppose it started as a young boy in Norfolk surrounded by all the fresh fruit and vegetables growing around us. There were fields full of crops and everyone in the village growing their own fruit and vegetables so everything I ate growing up was as fresh as could be.
Peas straight off the plant, podded and on your plate for dinner that night. We ate strawberries and raspberries straight out of the garden. Beetroot was harvested straight out of the soil, washed, boiled, sliced and enjoyed while still warm. We also enjoyed sweetcorn straight from the fields with fresh butter. Cherries, apples, and pears were picked from nearby trees, as were sweet tomatoes straight off the plant. We would prepare them with a sprinkling of salt and enjoy while they were still warm from the summer sun.
I would often cycle down the road to the farm for fresh eggs, ask the farmer’s wife if I could get some eggs, then hunt around in the garden looking for them. I liked helping the farmer milk the cows and then being able to take the milk home. Meat was sourced from all the local farms, game from the shoots in the winter.
We spent many hours fishing in the local streams and playing around in the fields. I took in everything around me and enjoyed seeing the way everything grows and the way the seasons changed.
This passion for fresh, local, and high-quality produce and ingredients was born from these childhood experiences and having a hands-on approach to food.
What is your restaurant's most popular dish?
It is hard to say because we make sure that the dishes are continuously changing with the seasons, however, the main ingredients remain pretty much the same. We get fresh lobster off the Dorset Coast and scallops which are hand dived from Scotland. Our lamb and pork are sourced from the Lune Valley and when the season starts, we love to get in lots of game from Yorkshire and Cumbria.
What advice can you give to someone who dreams of becoming a Chef?
It’s not a job! It really is a way of life and it can be very hard, but it can also be very rewarding. Firstly, you need to learn the basics properly from a good teacher - this takes time. Too many people try to jump the ladder too quickly, without mastering the basics first. Once you know how to cook well, you will be able to translate what is in your heart so much better onto a plate and this will set you up for life.
What is your favourite world cuisine?
I love all different types of cuisine - French, Italian and British because they remind me of my childhood and food is so much about memories. I would say though, that no matter which cuisine you enjoy cooking or eating, the most important thing is eating locally sourced foods as the flavours and authenticity of the dish will always be better.
On your day off, your perfect dinner in London would be at...?
To be honest on a day off I am happy cooking with my daughter at home. We enjoy picking some bits and pieces from the garden and cooking with fresh ingredients. I try to re-create some memories for her that I have from my childhood, and then enjoy it all, sitting at the table in the garden with friends and family, sharing the food around.