Following the launch of Randall and Aubin’s events catering arm its owner, television chef Ed Baines, tells Abena Bailey how his romp through the industry led him to where he is now.
Standing proudly among the massage parlours, fashion boutiques and betting shops of London’s Brewer Street, The Randall and Aubin is the most gentlemanly of establishments.
The wooden panelled glass front façade of the champagne and oyster bar harks back to a time when the building was once a butcher’s shop.
I was almost salivating at the window display of fresh seafood. Inside the restaurant was warm and it buzzed with a mix of young guys in tweeds and old men in wellcut suits, chatting away as they ate hearty dishes.
The aroma of cooking seafood with garlic hit my nostrils immediately. The music was pumping and there was a really cool vibe.
This is the place Ed Baines and his business partner Jamie Poulton have been running successfully for the past 16 years.
Last year they launched Randall and Aubin events catering, bringing seafood stalls, oyster shucking and amazing canapés, such a mini
Wagyu burgers and truffle potatoes with melted cheese, to intimate and large scale parties.
Ed drove up to meet me on a motorbike − a far cry from the Porsche he used to drive to work at Daphne’s Restaurant during the 1990s.
Seeing him sat on a Randall and Aubin delivery bike suggested the wild-child ‘it chef’, who once named Madonna and Guy Ritchie as his regulars, has been replaced with a more structured businessman.
He said: “I started at 16 years old with an apprenticeship under Anton Mosimann at The Dorchester, then travelled the world cooking on luxury yachts and restaurants in Queensland, Milan and Monaco so by the time I was aged 25 and at the helm of Daphne’s, I thought
I was long in the tooth so I just dug in and grafted.
“I was working ridiculous hours and that was all I did until I was 29 so when I was released into the social environment I was like a wild
animal. I was the one going out at night drinking the most.”
It was a heady time for the young chef. Daphne’s was the hippest place to eat in London, Ed lived in a smart Holland Park apartment,
drove to work in a Porsche and had a wardrobe packed with designer clothes.
“Marco Pierre White was the youngest chef to get three Michelin stars. He set the bench mark and as a young chef I felt I had to emulate that,” he explained.
The UK economy started to boom and Ed seemed to have the Midas touch.
Books and television appearances (he now judges ITV’s Britain’s Best Dish and is a regular guest on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen) followed.
After Daphne’s Ed’s next eatery popular with celebrities was the Ifield in Chelsea.
“It’s where Madonna used to go for a bowl of chips and Princes William and Harry hung out,” he said.
“One night Rod Stewart, Dustin Hoffman and Mick Jagger were all there and it was only a 38-seater restaurant.
“It was so self indulgent. I cooked what I wanted − really classic French dishes from bygone ages, such as a woodcock inside a snipe on one plate.”
Everyone remembers the heyday of Daphne’s and The Ifield. It was fast-paced and led by Ed and pal Jamie Poulton, who were young,
brave, spontaneous and at their creative peak.
With this kind of experience behind them, they carved out a structured growth for the Randall and Aubin and are establishing it as a brand name.
The country may be in a recession but the Randall and Aubin is lively.
The super rich are spending eyewatering amounts of cash hiring Ed to create dinner parties featuring the best food and wine money can buy.
He said: “You know the saying, you make money in a boom but create a dynasty in a recession, and that’s what it’s like for them.
“It goes to the extreme − people eat blowfish with long chopsticks.
They want amazing wine − if there’s 12 bottles in the world they’ll have three.
“I fly in hand pressed olive oil and I’ll spend hours working out how to deep fry foie gras in almonds to float in a soup.”
Maybe Ed’s gung-ho approach is the kind of attitude austere Britain needs right now.
In his opinion declining revenue streams and increasing costs will only disintegrate the opportunity to turn things around.
“We have to stimulate growth,” he said.
“When you have someone who is an accountant running a company it will fail. What you need is a gambler.”
Now there’s food for thought.
By Abena Bailey