The Galvins bring homegrown produce to The Athenaeum

Chef-restaurateur Chris Galvin on stepping up to the plate and putting native fare on the menu at Mayfair's family-owned five-star hotel

Michelin-starred chefs Chris Galvin (right) and Jeff Galvin (left) 

British food has always had a bit of a bad reputation. Traditionally, we Brits ate to live whereas on the Continent, they live to eat. I wrote a dissertation on the history of our national fare for my degree and discovered that because we were always fighting off invaders, we had to produce food to feed our armies rather than to give ourselves pleasure. Jeff [Galvin's brother and fellow chef] and I did tons of research on native cooking before launching our first Galvin Hop pub and restaurant in Spitalfields, London, earlier this year so we were well primed for The Athenaeum.

I was always aware of the hotel – I did my apprenticeship at the Ritz on Piccadilly in the 1980s and then, in the early 1990s, moved to the newly opened Lanesborough, which is just down the road. It's not as big as other establishments in the area, but that's what I like about it. It's a family-run business and that means a lot to us. Family businesses really care about what they do and it shows. The collaboration has been good fun so far.

This has been the first time we've overseen the entire food production of a hotel. In a restaurant, you have a lunch and dinner service whereas in a hotel, you have guests to cater for 24 hours a day, and an all-night menu. It's a hell of a lot of pressure on kitchen staff, but we have years of experience to draw on – my career has been 50-50 hotels and restaurants and Jeff has worked at The Savoy and several country-house hotels.

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We always say we're season-led and market-driven. To decide what we're going to cook, we consider the season first, then the ingredients. There's plenty of fish on the menu at Galvin at The Athenaeum – mullet, crab, lobster – and sea vegetables, as well as regional produce, of course. It's essential to support small farms and help them grow if we want to keep local specialities alive.

The Galvin brothers are a bit like a pair of brogues, I think: we're never in fashion, but never out, neither. Nothing we cook is themed or gimmicky: it's just about using the best possible ingredients. We're becoming much more democratic about food. I grew up in an age where chefs said no to everything, but it's evolved. Now, you give the customer what they want – and why wouldn't you?

CHRIS GALVIN and his brother, Jeff, are both Michelin-starred chefs. In their latest venture, Galvin at The Athenaeum, they have stepped away from their trademark French-inspired menus in favour of championing home-grown produce;

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