The Ritz 'wasnt really me' | Sven-Hanson Britt
When London chef Sven-Hanson Britt narrowly missed out on scooping the MasterChef crown, he quit an impressive job many would only dream of holding.
In January, he left his post as sous chef at the world famous British hotel, The Ritz London, after seven years in service at the five-star institution, where he first began his career on an apprenticeship.
“I am so lucky [to have worked there], but it wasn’t really me,” says Sven. “The style of food has to be very formal, very structured and traditional.”
Armed with a creative and seasoned set of skills, Sven reached the finals of the BBC television programme MasterChef: The Professionals in 2014.
I get bored easily
After Sven lost out on the title [to Scottish chef Jamie Scott], one critic, writing in the Telegraph, declared Sven the best in the competition and the final result an “unsatisfying end to a great series”.
He explains: “I get bored quite easily and it was something extra, something fun to do.
“And it wasn’t half as terrifying as doing my normal job,’ he jokes.
“It gave me a lot of confidence in myself and in cooking by myself in a kitchen – it made me think about what I wanted to cook and where I wanted to be. I want to get back to the basics of food.”
Sven has been thinking about sourcing incredible food for a long time.
As a teenager, he saved up all his money for an improbable treat. While others were planning trips to festivals or gigs, Sven had a less likely goal in mind.
Taking a couple of days holiday from work, but with only a hazy idea of where he was going, he flew down to Lyon to find the man he calls “the grandfather of French cuisine”.
“I walked two-and-a-half kilometres along a motorway in the rain to find his restaurant,” he says.
Drenched, tired and with no real French language skills, the young Sven finally arrived at renowned chef Paul Bocuse’s three-starred Michelin restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges. This was a pivotal moment.
“It all came together, I thought ‘this is what it’s all about’ – it was the first experience that actually got me thinking about guests and gastronomy.”
Mr Bocuse – crowned ‘Chef of the Century’ by the Culinary Institute of America – took interest in this solitary teen diner who had crossed a sea to get a seat in his restaurant.
“He came and sat next to me and talked to me, gave me extra food, then later, one of his staff gave me a lift to my hotel – it was amazing,” says Sven.
For most of this year Sven has been visiting producers to see where different foods come from.
In pursuit of this goal, Sven visited Faviken, an ‘amazing’ restaurant in the north of Sweden, which only takes 16 covers a night and is in a remote destination.
“They have amazing principles, they have to grow or forage all the food they serve – this leads to much more interesting food,” he says.
“The snow comes down and for six months they have to preserve everything – they are so much more creative because of the constraints they are under.”
This is where Sven wants to take his career next and he hopes a self-sufficient restaurant is on the cards.
“I want to care for, produce, rear and grow everything I cook with so I can control everything from beginning to end,” he says.
Above all, Sven is determined to keep learning and avoid the arrogance he says prevails in the industry.
“A lot of chefs think they know everything all the time.”