Flash-grilled: Alex Hely-Hutchinson

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Alex Hely-Hutchinson 26 Grains Covent Garden

Related tags Breakfast London Casual dining

Alex Hely-Hutchinson is the founder of popular Covent Garden breakfast spot 26 Grains, which offers a health-focused menu specialising in porridge. She recently launched an evening set menu.

What was your first job?
Working at Low Cost Holidays as a travel agent.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
Really tasty chocolate milk. They’ve got the best ones in Copenhagen that I got into while I was living there.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
My best meal recently was either at Blue Hill in New York or Bright in Hackney.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
There are so many but ones that come to mind first are Angela Hartnett, Margot Henderson and Ruth Rogers. They have an incredible work ethic, deliver on really great food and seem to be having a great time doing it. Their drive is born from their love of food.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I think about this a lot and I think it would have to be farming fruit and vegetables. I find the changing seasons so exciting because it means there is always new produce and ingredients to work with.

What is your biggest regret?
Not being able to speak another language. 

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Chaos. I hate when people are messy workers and don’t clear as they go, it’s inefficient and if your station is messy, so is your mind. You won’t do your best.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Whether they could order fish and chips with their breakfast.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?

Describe your cooking style in three words
Simple, seasonal, tasty.

Most overrated food?
Salted caramel. Salted everything else – honey, dark chocolate - is divine, but salted caramel is too sickly for me.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Making any changes to your dish – more spicy, less spicy, no onions and the like. 

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
They really didn’t enjoy their pineapple juice... we don’t serve pineapple juice.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
Anyone. I love cooking for people, but would do it as a single simple menu rather than run like a restaurant with lots of choices.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
You’ll need to work hard to achieve great things, so only do it if you really love it.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My mandolin – it can transform a single ingredient into something elegant and refreshing.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Mostly what we make at 26 Grains. Fresh pasta, lots of veggies, slow roasted meat and big fresh salads.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
It’s either Marmite on really buttery toast or the sound of Rice Krispies popping in the bowl.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you fall apart, your business will fall apart, so remember to make time for yourself.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Wherever my best friends are, doesn’t need to be a specific place, just all of us together. 

Tipple of choice?
If not really good red or white wine, it would be a Manhattan.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A big summery picnic plate. Crunchy salad, simple vinaigrette, fresh tomatoes, good olive oil, tapenade, langoustines, oozy cheeses, sharp hard cheeses, pickled garlic, ham, cold roast chicken, good salted butter and fresh bread.

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