Named after the ‘first celebrity chef’ Xavier Marcel Boulestin, Boulestin French restaurant has done ‘the master’ proud, pleasing critics and customers alike. As Xavier’s namesake celebrates its first birthday, we look back at our interview with its head chef Andrew Woodford

Who was Marcel Boulestin?

Xavier Marcel Boulestin was a French chef, restaurateur, and the author of many cookery books that introduced French cuisine to a British audience. He was a visionary of his time and was the first TV chef to appear on the BBC in 1937. He opened his restaurant, Boulestin in Covent Garden in 1927 serving most traditional French food.

What was different about his approach to cooking?

Boulestin was undoubtedly the first of his kind and very much before his time in terms of his cooking and approach to food. He made French food accessible to cook in English households through his simple recipes and his unintimidating use of language in his cookbooks. All in all he was a pioneer of sorts, reminding us to value the simplicity of food and honest decent cooking.

What do you admire about his work?

The fact that his creations are made with feeling and not weights and measures. If you read his recipes, very rarely does he give a quantity in his methods, you have to cook with emotion and a sense of self belief. I believe that this is what makes for a fantastic tasting dish.

 What do you love about French cuisine?

I love the indulgent aspect of the cuisine and also the diversity of French food. The fact that it can be so complex like a cassoulet for example or something as simple as a grilled red mullet, yet still be full of flavour and suitable to eat for all manner of occasions.

Why is French cuisine still so synonymous with romance?

I think it has a lot to do with the luxury that is attached to French cooking. Also with French food there is a lot of care and attention that goes into every dish and preparation, a lot of passion goes into the food, something that I try to instil in my team here at Boulestin.

When you have a night off…where do you like to dine in West London?

 I like busy and vibrate restaurants. Balthazar and Brasserie Zedel are two of my favourites; great concepts that really capture the hustle and bustle of a great French brasserie.

What Boulestin dish are you most excited about?

Oeuf en Gelee and cassoulet have been two of the most challenging but also most rewarding dishes to make. Ever since we have opened they have continued to be popular and have almost become a signature favourite for our repeat customers. Again just another example of how to cook simple food really well.

5 St James’s Street SW1A 1EF