Written by: Chloé Morris, Edible Stories
Renowned as one of London’s finest and most ambitious pop-ups, Cuisson is a dining experience you won't want to miss. First established in April 2015 and following their original venture, which saw a modern interpretation of afternoon tea hit Burlington Arcade, the innovative team are back with an Asian-inspired interactive restaurant.
Guests to Cuisson's latest Popdown, which runs until January 2017, will be treated to Japanese cocktails, snacks, small plates and – for those looking for the full Cuisson experience – a 5-course tasting menu. With Michelin-trained chefs behind the scenes expect a range of delectable dishes ranging from snacks such as Oysters tempura, oyster with cucumber XO sauce to main events like Ginger and soy marinated girlled pork loin, pickled cucumber, bean sprouts, daikon and rice.
One of Cuisson's chefs is Angie Rojas who we had the pleasure to talk with.
What got you into cooking?
Food was a massive deal in my house growing up. Both my grandmothers owned restaurants, with my maternal grandmother being the first person to open a Colombian delicatessen in London. My father also opened a restaurant in Elephant and Castle and then a coffee shop in the city in the early 2000's. I grew up behind the counter of all these establishment and always enjoyed cooking and being around food.
Where did you study? How did that set you up for your career in food?
I studied at Westminster Kingsway College (WKC) where I did a professional chef Diploma. It’s a three-year course where you learn everything from bakery to butchery under the direction of some of the best lecturers in the country. In my opinion it’s a very well rounded course, not only do you partake in a six week placement at a prestigious establishment each year, you also do a six week rotation in each of the restaurants on-site. This helps you develop your skills in a working environment but also gives you an insight into the real life of a kitchen.
How did you get into the Cuisson kitchen?
Through persistence. I first met Paul when he came to do a talk at WKC; we were being exposed to the many different areas of the hospitality industry and he came in to talk to us about his company and give us some insight into private catering. I was intrigued by his core values and what he was trying to achieve but above all inspired that he was doing it all at such a young age. I looked up Cuisson ix months after finishing culinary school and sent over my CV. After receiving no reply I sent it again and eventually turned up at Paul's office to introduce myself personally and communicate my intentions. So ultimately my personality played a huge factor and I am a strong believer that it’s the most powerful tool we have.
How did it feel to be the chef running the show for the first time?
I have always felt very comfortable leading a team and being in charge so it was great to have that opportunity and show Paul (and myself!) that I can handle it. It’s such a great feeling to enjoy what you do and have that huge sense of achievement at the end of every day.
How has your Cuisson journey helped shape you as a chef?
Joining Cuisson has exposed me to so many different sides of the food industry. When i first started we were doing luxury catering, we then did pop-ups, experimenting with modern European cuisine and pushing the boundaries of traditional dining with our interactive element. We are now doing experiential projects, collaborating with some big brands to communicate their message using food whilst creating a memorable dining experience.
I have learned to adapt quickly to new environments and am being taught skills I would never get in another establishment, such as project management and business management and these are key skills that will help my future development.
How would we recognise your style? What is your unique approach to cooking?
To be completely honest I am not sure how to answer that question but I will tell you this: I believe in honest cooking and like to let the food do the talking. I don't believe you need to use fancy ingredients to make a delicious decadent dish; just a good understanding of the ingredients you have to hand and the qualities they possess. A chef I worked with once said to me "you can give people all your secrets and they still wont make the dish exactly the same" and I couldn't agree more. Therefore I am very transparent and believe that this is key.
What inspires you in the food world and outside of it?
Change. I thrive on change as it causes you to adapt, become better, faster and more robust. The change in our environment, the change in our industry, the change in produce and the constant change in the consumer markets preferences all cause me to constantly analyse the food I'm producing and what my next move will be.
If you weren't a chef what would you be?
I didn't know you could be a professional baker growing up but it was my dream that someone would make it a job so I could just do that all day. I also contemplated becoming a teacher but I saw how much my teachers struggled and decided against it at a relatively young age. I also thought about becoming an airhostess but was put off because it becomes so antisocial; so it’s ironic that I ended up becoming a chef!
What is your idea of the perfect meal?
For me food is so powerful and holds so many memories. My perfect meal is nothing too extravagant or fancy just something homely prepared with love and served in a calm environment, where you can relax and really enjoy what your eating.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I do! I know its bad but when you finish a late shift and you’re making your way home in the dead of night there's very little that can beat chicken wings. Especially in south London where you can get four wings for a pound!
What has been your ultimate food experience to date?
It’s between two establishments. The first is Chotto Matte in Soho; I had the pleasure of doing a two day experience in their kitchens learning the intricacies of Nikkei cuisine. This exposed me to a completely new combinations of flavours. I was invited to dine at the end of the second day and was blown away by my dining experience. The second is Dinner by Heston. I did an intense six-week work experience in the kitchen and was exposed to the inner workings of a two star Michellin kitchen; the attention to detail was incredible and the focus on consistency was inspiring. I went for dinner at the end of my stage and was able to experience the combination of flavours that had been so thoughtfully chosen and carefully prepared, which really got to understand the need for such precision. Both establishments exposed me to a completely new level of food and raised my expectations dramatically and I guess that's why they are so memorable to me.
What is your most vivid food memory? Have you ever wanted to recreate it?
My most vivid food memory is sitting on my grandmother’s countertop in my pajamas with my feet in the sink, helping her to peel carrots. I was about two or three years’ old at the time and I think it’s probably best if I don’t recreate that in a restaurant setting…..for hygiene reasons!
Who would be your dream dinner party guests?
This is a hard question! Off the top of my head: Martha Stewart, Michelle Obama, Ben Horowitz, JK Rowling and Beyoncé.
(Photos: Hot Dinners)