We Grill: Anthony Marshall
Anthony Marshall is the executive chef at the London Hilton on Park Lane. He has worked at the hotel for 16 years and is in charge of banqueting events. The hotel holds on average, five a week, catering to a minimum of 700 guests.
How do you prepare for a banqueting event?
The key to a successful event is organisation. I call it ‘Marshall’s Law’ which means you have to be organised and you can’t take any prisoners. The first thing we do is give the client a tasting menu – chosen by them – several months in advance of the event. This gives a choice of three starters, mains and
desserts. Each dish is one that I know me and my team can put together and execute on the day. I then photograph and date the chosen dishes so they are served in an identical way at the event.
How do you make sure it runs smoothly on the day?
Working ahead is a must. Most of the food is prepped the day before the event with cooking on the day. For most events we have 13 chefs working in the kitchen, but rope more in when we need help plating
up. To get a glimpse of how much work goes into the preparation, for one event it took three chefs almost six hours to make the individual rose-shaped butter each guest was given with their hot bread. Timing is crucial at banquets. It takes the waiters between five and eight minutes to clear, and once the intermediate course goes out the chefs have between eight to 10 minutes to get the main course ready to serve.
Who have been your most prestigious guests?
I’ve cooked for the whole Royal family, including the Queen – whom I’ve met – celebrities such as Sir Tom Jones, Dame Judi Dench and Paul McCartney, international sports awards, and boxing legend
Muhammad Ali’s 60th birthday.
What chef inspired you the most as your career was starting and who inspires you now?
I started my career with Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester and now having worked alongside so many great chefs it is very hard to name just one. But those who stand out are Pierre Gagnaire, Sat Baines and Jason Atherton.
Favourite childhood food memory?
Boiled egg with soldiers – I still like that now! And my mum’s vegetables which were so over-cooked you could make soup out of them.
What are your favourite ingredients to use in September and October?
These are generally challenging months for vegetables, but we try to use as many forest mushrooms as possible and a lot of game which is available at this time of year.
Piece of equipment in the kitchen you couldn’t live without?
My Thermomix (not much it can’t do) or the dehydrator.
Favourite restaurant in the UK?
Christmas is the busiest time for catering, so how would you advise a chef to prepare and deal with the extra numbers?
Be organised, have a plan of action and order in advance so you know what the costs are and that your supplier has enough notice to get the correct quality and quantity you require. A pair of roller skates
would be handy!
What’s the most popular request on the banqueting menu?
Beef fillet with red onion marmalade glazed with brie, and soufflés which are the signature dishes of our banqueting team as well as the most popular and most profitable.
Are different skills required for a banqueting chef and a restaurant chef?
They are two different sides with ultimately the same goal. A banquet chef has to be extremely organised and use seasonal produce at the right times of the year to recreate the same top quality dish for anything up to a 1000 guests. The restaurant chef has to follow the same ethos but only for only few guests. The difference is a mistake in the restaurant is on a small scale – a mistake in banqueting can cost you much, much more.