Farm to Table Chef Profile
We sat down with farm to table Chef Andrew Featherstone, Executive Chef for Burge Plantation in Mansfield. Chef Featherstone was born in Marietta, Georgia and left at age 4 to live in England until he was 25, and then returned to Georgia.
Q. How did you get started as a farm to table chef?
A. In my hometown in Hertfordshire England, when I was about 13, I tried my hand at delivering the morning newspaper. The newspapers were stolen and I never finished my route. On the way home I passed a country hotel/restaurant and filled out an application as a dishwasher. I quickly learned that not only did I stay out of trouble when I was working, but I got paid for it. I was hooked from then on and was cooking and doing pretty much every job I could by age 15. I left school at 16 and worked full-time with one day a week off so I could go to culinary school.
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
A. I’m very lucky to work at Burge. We are a private hunting club and I pretty much have full reign over what I do. We also do corporate functions and about 20 weddings a year. So one day I might be doing a 5-course dinner from anywhere from 12 to 40 people, and the next a wedding for 250. We have our own organic garden and my own chef’s garden with about 30-40 different herbs and various other seasonal lettuces and vegetables. It’s never the same thing twice, so it’s always a creative challenge.
Q. What is your favorite ingredient?
A. That’s a difficult one really, but I love cilantro and lemon grass. Also, having grown up in the UK, I use a lot of sherry
Q. What is the best meal you have made or eaten?
A. We offer an experience, so the food is great but we match it with service and ambiance and that’s huge. I don't care where you are you have to feel comfortable, like old friends coming to your house, and it should never be snobby. My most memorable experience was dining with my sister and father at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quat'saisons (the manor of four seasons) in beautiful Oxfordshire. It’s a 14th century house with beautiful gardens that serves local and seasonal food. We had the 10-course menu, and I think we got there at 5 and left at midnight. Everything was beautiful.
Q. Who are your major influences?
A. Most cooking shows are not my thing. So very few of those impress me. Anthony Bourdain has my dream job of traveling all over the world. He is about the people and culture as much as the food which is very important. Under all that hot air, Gordon Ramsey is an amazing chef as well.
Q. What are you into right now?
A. Right now we are playing a lot with sous vide cooking. We cook most of our game this way as the results are impossible to achieve any other way. You vacuum seal your protein with herbs and other ingredients and cook in a monitored circulating water bath at the finishing temperature. For example, pheasant is cooked at 146.5°. So it’s slow, but very hard to overcook anything, and the vacuum sealing keeps in the flavor beautifully
Q. What would we find in your pantry?
A. Everything.....LOL. Don't ever give me a big dry storage room because I will fill it with every vinegar, spice, and oil I can find.
Q. What does farm to table mean to you?
A. Well to me it's local everything, organic is good but local I think is more important. People say they want farm to table but when to tell them it is not the season or offer something they have never heard of or have not had a good experience with they change their mind sometimes. Some people still want asparagus in December, which is crazy.
We will continue to chronicle farm to table chefs as we dive deeper into what farm to table is coming to mean and how eating locally grown food benefits us all!