“I got goosebumps,” says chef Anna Haugh, discussing the first time she stepped into a professional kitchen. “I just knew somehow it was going to be part of my life.”
Ms Haugh (pronounced “Ha”) has recently been appointed executive chef at iconic Soho restaurant, Bob Bob Ricard. Since its launch eight years ago, the upmarket eatery, with its opulent art deco interiors and extensive menu of OTT comfort food, has garnered widespread acclaim from the public and press alike.
“We want to be recognised as much for our food as for our design, atmosphere and unique wine list,” restaurant owner Leonid Shutov says. “Anna is a brilliantly talented chef who shares this ambition. With her passion for fine dining and creating memorable experiences, she is the perfect person to push the boundaries of our menu further.”
What drew Anna to Bob Bob? “I love fine dining,” she quips, “[from] the ceremony of your arrival and your first glass of champagne, to the petit four at the end. At Bob Bob Ricard you get the whole glizt and magic.”
Growing up in Ireland, Anna didn’t have lifelong dreams of becoming a chef. In fact, it didn’t even cross her mind until the age of 19 when she accidentally stumbled into a kitchen. Though creative cookery may have come later, food was always an important part of her life. “I was very lucky – although I didn’t see it at the time – to grow up with 100% homemade food… every summer we would make a ton of jam. We grew a lot of fruit out in our back garden.”
She speaks (somewhat) fondly of road trips with her family – “Dad squashed six of us in a five seater” – as they travelled through Europe “eating whatever was on offer in every village and town.”
Despite the fact her folks initially thought her “mad” for choosing the culinary life, Anna was anything but a slow-starter. Her career began in her native Dublin, at the Michelin-starred L’Écrivain, under the watchful eye of Derry Clarke.
Since her move to London over a decade ago, she’s gone from strength to strength, working with some of the country’s greatest chefs: Shane Osborne at Pied à Terre, Philip Howard at The Square and most recently Gordon Ramsay at London House. Anna describes Gordon as a “great leader and thoughtful mentor,” a statement evidenced in the fact that his 26th venture bagged itself three AA Rosettes within a year of its unveiling.
Bob Bob Ricard has already earned a solid reputation as a purveyor of gastronomic frills and lavish eccentricities – tables are fitted with champagne buttons for those trying times when flagging down a waiter just cannot summon bubbles fast enough. And Anna is more than ready to embrace decadence.
“At Bob Bob Ricard we love the finer things, she notes, careful not to give too much away about her new menu, set to be revealed in autumn. “Expect plenty of champagne sauces, lobster and caviar.”
From this alliance, we’d expect nothing less.
At London House Anna became known for discreetly injecting her menu with subtle homages to her motherland, so it’ll be interesting to see whether she gives a nod to her Irish roots in her latest professional outing.
Prophesising anecdotes of her time as a judge on Kitchen Nightmares, or of winning her first Rosette, we probed Anna about her proudest achievement to date. But her response was less specific, and altogether more heartfelt: “loving what I do!
“Is that an achievement?” she queries. We certainly think so.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James St, London W1F 9DF