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Josh Angus: Hide Ground’s all-star head chef

Josh Angus: Hide Ground’s all-star head chef

by Tom Shingler 17 January 2019

There’s more to being a chef than cooking a nice plate of food – especially when you’ve got a team of fifty to look after. Tom Shingler talks to Josh Angus about running the kitchen at Hide Ground, and how his background in development and private catering helps him run a tight ship at the Michelin-starred, all-day mega-restaurant.

Despite TV shows portraying chefs as glamorous rockstar-types, pretty much everyone in the industry will tell you that the reality is very, very different. Long hours, intense services, finding the time to be creative, spending years completing repetitive tasks until you have truly honed your craft – this is what it takes before a chef reaches their peak. But there are various ways to reach that end goal, and different types of chef roles. You can aim for the highest standards in Michelin-starred kitchens; become a private chef cooking for the well-heeled or go into development, creating new products. Josh Angus did all three before he became head chef at Hide Ground, one of the most ambitious restaurants London’s ever seen.

Growing up in Sheffield, Josh didn’t get on that well on school – his focus was on sports and girls above everything else. But there was one other subject that kept him interested. ‘I don’t know why but making cakes and things in home economics really interested me, so as soon as I finished my A-levels I went to Sheffield Catering College,’ he says. ‘By the time I was twenty I’d been head chef at two different restaurants, which I was nowhere near ready for, so I decided to start as a commis chef again but in Michelin-starred kitchens.’

This is a hard decision for any chef to make, particularly as it means a sharp pay cut and a return to ‘the bottom of the pile’, as Josh puts it. However, it was certainly the right move, as he secured a place at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – a restaurant renowned for its ability to train incredible chefs. ‘I worked at Le Manoir for about a year and a half, which was like going back to school. There’s cooking and then there’s real cooking – working methodically and keeping your section clean might not sound exciting but it’s a really important part of being a good chef, and that's what I learnt at Le Manoir.’

Josh would’ve stayed at Le Manoir for longer, but the sudden news that he needed to have a triple hernia operation meant he had to take a year out of cooking completely and move back home to Sheffield. Once he was back on his feet he moved to Hong Kong to work with Shane Osborn (previously head chef at Pied a Terre) to open a new restaurant with Alan Yau, before returning to the UK to work at Ollie Dabbous’ eponymous restaurant as sous chef.

‘After two years at Dabbous I wanted a bit of my own time and a break from Michelin-style cooking,' he explains. 'Even though it really shaped me as a chef and I loved every minute of it, the workload was brutal and the days were really long. I ended up being a private chef for the American ambassador, which was really different, but I got to meet some amazing people – Jimmy Carter would come round for breakfast, Ed Sheeran was there, I cooked for Annie Lennox. Even the Prime Minister used to come around to use the tennis courts! But after a while I wanted to get back to the kitchen, because sometimes I’d just be cooking plain white pasta for the ambassador’s kids over and over again.’

Stints at L’Autre Pied and Elystan Street followed, satisfying Josh’s desire to work at a Michelin-starred level once again. But when he was approached to become the development chef for Belazu, he couldn’t turn it down. ‘It was a really nice gig – normal working hours, decent money, interesting and different things to do,’ he says. ‘You see all the science behind product development and get to come up with ideas for new ones. A lot of the things I created are now stocked in Tesco and Ocado, which is pretty cool.’

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Josh had now experienced the full gamut of professional cookery. Earning his stripes in Michelin-starred kitchens, allowing his creativity to thrive as a private chef and then learning about the more managerial and business side of things at Belazu gave him a seriously rounded skillset. Perhaps that’s why he’s thriving in his current role as head chef at Hide Ground – the ginormous all-day restaurant that’s open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. With his old friend Ollie Dabbous overseeing everything, the two of them work together on the menus, but it’s up to Josh to manage the fifty-strong team of chefs that make such a huge operation possible.

‘If you’ve just worked in French Michelin-starred kitchens your whole career, then that’s the only style you can really do,’ says Josh. ‘I think being a Michelin-starred chef, a private chef and a development chef has really helped me get a grounding in every aspect of running a kitchen. I’ve got a team of fifty chefs at Hide Ground so I don’t really do the day-to-day cooking – instead, I’m planning, organising and delegating. Being able to manage such a big team is a job in itself, and I think I learnt how to do that during my time as a development chef. Being a private chef, on the other hand, means you have plenty of opportunities and time to be creative, so I think that’s when I started to really develop my own cooking style, which helps with creating new dishes. My style is pretty similar to Ollie’s because he was a massive influence when I was at Dabbous; a light touch, let the produce speak for itself and don’t have sixteen different elements on the plate.

‘I knew Hide was going to be big but I never thought it would be this big,’ he continues. ‘The kitchen is massive and there are so many chefs – I joke that I’m in HR now rather than being a chef because most of my job is dealing with problems and people! There’s a lot of walking around the kitchen saying ‘why is that out of place?’ and ‘why are you doing that?’. It can be painful at times because there’s such a lack of decent chefs in the industry at the moment, but I’m very, very happy with the team we’ve got. They consistently achieve the standard we’re aiming for.’

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Josh is only thirty, but he’s already got more experience under his belt than many chefs twice his age – plus a dream job too. While it is, of course, a stressful role, and there are days when Josh says he wants to give up, that’s simply what comes with working in a kitchen – albeit a very swish kitchen indeed. ‘There’s been no expense spared at Hide and anything we’ve wanted we’ve been given; I can’t thank the owners enough,' he says. 'We work with the best suppliers in the UK too – Lake District Farmers for our meat, Flying Fish and Wild Harbour for seafood, a guy called Richard Vaughan supplies us with the very best pork. It’s hard at times, but working here is a dream job for any head chef.’

While he may not be cooking every plate of food that goes into the dining room or adding the finishing touches to dishes like you see on the TV, he’s the one making sure fifty other chefs do all that to the absolute highest standard. Creating the perfect quenelle takes practice and looks impressive, but Josh mastered those skills years ago. He’s moved onto bigger, tougher tasks that keep a restaurant like Hide together, and without him the restaurant certainly wouldn't have won a Michelin star. Eating there is a relaxing, welcoming, calm experience, and it's thanks to Josh that the same serenity and seamlessness can be found behind the kitchen door.

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Josh Angus: Hide Ground’s all-star head chef

 
 

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