Posted 22nd Sep 2015
At only 26 years of age, MasterChef: the Professionals finalist Adam Handling is inspiringly ambitious and a rapidly rising talent to watch, as we find out in honour of British Food Fortnight (19th September to 14th October 2015)
Adam Handling’s culinary journey started at Gleneagles, where he was the first ever trainee chef. He then went on to become Fairmont’s youngest ever Head Chef, culminating in winning Scottish Young Chef of the Year 2011.
Adam has since been awarded Scottish Chef of the Year 2015 as well as the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year 2014. He has also just got through to the finals, after winning the semi-finals, of National Chef of the Year 2015, and in September last year, he opened ‘Adam Handling at Caxton' in Caxton Street SW1, which has already taken a coveted three rosettes award from the AA.
A highly accomplished chef, Adam Handling brings his love of Asian flavours and techniques – particularly Japanese – to his kitchen. His beautifully presented dishes start with careful sourcing of top quality, seasonal ingredients, prepared in a number of different, creative ways to enhance their inherent properties and deliver real depth of flavour and harmony.
Published to coincide with the launch of his restaurant, his first cookbook, Smile or Get Out of the Kitchen, contains 87 recipes that reflect Adam’s ethos of exploring and combining taste profiles and flavours, to create balanced, harmonious dishes with a real ‘wow’ factor.
Starting his official culinary training aged 16 as the first ever apprentice chef at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, he then went on to build upon his experience further by working as First Commis Chef at Rhodes 24 in London, before heading his first brigade as Sous Chef at the Malmaison Hotel, Newcastle. Adam took on his current position toward the end of last year as Head Chef at the Caxton Grill in St James’s Park, where he leads a team of 22, and where MasterChef 2014 finalists were filmed cooking under Adam’s instruction.
With a background in patisserie, Adam launched his own range of chocolates this year. Each of the chocolate recipes has been created by Adam from scratch using his very own white, milk and dark chocolate bases, and only small batches at a time are made, entirely by hand. With a brave and intelligent palette, the range includes fennel pollen and plain chocolate, wasabi popcorn and white chocolate, and Earl Grey and milk chocolate.
We caught up with Adam to find out more about his colourful career:
How did you first become interested in cooking?
I got my love of cooking from my Mother, she inspired me to take it up as a career. She used to bake a lot of sweet pastries and cakes and the way I decorate sweet dishes now often reflects the way she used to decorate them.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I love using Asian flavours and techniques, particularly Japanese, and I am all about big flavours, unusual combinations, immediate taste sensations and a touch of nostalgia. I love to use ingredients that you wouldn’t normally put together and that deliver unexpected harmonies.
How did it feel when you were crowned Scottish Chef of the Year?
It felt amazing. I last won a Scottish competition when I was just 21, so to be crowned Scottish Chef of the Year really was such an honour.
Is cooking with Scottish produce something you're particularly passionate about?
Yes, definitely. I am passionate about using the very best ingredients that I can lay my hands on and Scotland offers incredible produce such as Highland Wagyu beef as well as the very best shellfish.
What's your favourite Scottish dish to eat and why?
I love to eat Stovies (a Scottish dish based on potatoes) whenever I am back home visiting my mum. The way she cooks it is amazing.
Why did you decide to start concentrating more on chocolate?
I have always loved chocolate and when I was little I used to be obsessed with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I always said from a very young age that I would create my own chocolate range and so I am so chuffed to bits that this dream has become a reality.
What's the inspiration behind the unusual flavour combinations you use in your chocolate?
My chocolates reflect my cooking style of creating unusual and unexpected flavour combinations that deliver an element of surprise and work together really well.
Do you have any top tips to making the perfect shortbread?
My tip would definitely be to not play around with it too much and, after it has rested overnight, do not add any more flour when you roll it out.
Find out more about Adam at www.adamhandling.co.uk