Chef’s Thoughts with Andi Van Willigan

By | April 5th, 2017

The biggest mistake Andi Van Willigan, Executive Chef of Bel-Air (Los Angeles, Calif.) CC made when she first started as a chef was not knowing her self-worth.

Andrea (Andi) Van Willigan spent the first decade of her career working as the right hand to two of the most high-profile chefs in the world—Gordon Ramsay (of “Hell’s Kitchen” fame) and restaurateur Michael Mina. She worked in a corporate role, developing new restaurant properties, as well as in television production. Now she is running the kitchen at the very exclusive Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles (see “Star Power,” C&RB, May 2016) and she’s enjoying both the creative freedom and the support of her members.

  1. You’d be surprised to learn that I am shy.
  2. If I could trade places with one chef it would be Gordon Ramsey.
  3. One of my most memorable meals was at Michael Mina at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. From service and atmosphere to every detail of food: it was spot on.
  4. My go-to drink is LaCroix, Pellegrino, or Matilda Beer by Goose Island.
  5. My last meal would be my dad’s lavender-smoked chicken.
  6. My worst culinary creation was my early attempts at pulling noodles for a concept I was working on. Or probably something I baked. (I don’t like baking.)
  7. If I could change one thing about my club it would be the members who require wonder bread and bologna to be on the menu.
  8. My favorite junk food is wings or nachos.
  9. If I wasn’t a chef, I’d love to be an interior designer.
  10. I knew I wanted to be a chef before college. I wanted to travel the world, and I didn’t want a career that kept me behind a desk. Plus, I always loved cooking with my dad. I enjoyed seeing the instant gratification on people’s faces when they ate something we made.
  11. You’ll never see monkfish on the menu at my club because it’s the rat of the sea and I don’t like cleaning it.
  12. The most ridiculous member or guest request I’ve ever had was to cook their tuna tartar.
  13. I love being a club chef because of the creative freedom and lifestyle.
  14. When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m running with my dog or finding a reason to throw a get together with my family.
  15. My biggest mistake when I first started as a chef was not knowing my self-worth.
  16. If I were stranded on a dessert island, I’d want these five foods with me: tortillas, liquid cheese, ground beef, sour cream, and avocados.
  17. I cook cous cous masterpiece (a combo of cous cous and anything on hand) at home, but I’d never cook it at the club.
  18. If I could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, it would be my grandfather. He was such an inspiration in business and life.
  19. The most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever received was learn how not to be from those around you.
  20. My favorite celebrity chef right now is Emeril Lagasse because he started the TV revolution for chefs. He’s also someone I have not met yet. And I love his new show, “Eat the World.”
  21. The most important things in my kitchen are a sharp knife, salt, and attitude.
  22. I want to learn more about the history of curing foods and preservation because it’s interesting and I want to start a charcuterie program at the club.
  23. My favorite ingredients are fresh herbs. White truffle oil is the most overrated ingredient. Acid is the most undervalued ingredient. I detest white pepper and I can’t live without salt.
  24. The rules of conduct in my kitchen are: Attitude is everything. I would take a less experienced cook with a great attitude than a rock star cook with a bad attitude.
  25. My most embarrassing moment in the kitchen was when I worked at the St. Regis and we told a cook right out of culinary school to go to the main kitchen and get us some dingelberries. I felt really bad and embarrassed that I was in on it.
  26. I would like to see more openness to trying new things in clubs.
  27. I would like to see less Wonder Bread and bologna in clubs.
  28. My favorite book is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgeson Burnett. It really made my imagination soar and it drove my creativity as a kid.
  29. My favorite TV shows are Real House Wives or The Bachelorette. I can zone out and laugh when I watch these.
  30. My favorite kitchen hack is an avocado corer (but I only use it at home).
  31. I am inspired by the knowledge that people relying on me to teach, mentor and develop. It keeps me motivated to stay up to date with trends and to constantly keep learning so that I can help mold future cooks.

2 Responses to Chef’s Thoughts with Andi Van Willigan

  1. Judee says:

    Andi, you are a great cook. And we love having you in our family… You can put together some really good eats.

  2. ginger says:

    You are a great chef and a great person one of the sweetest people I think I’ve ever met

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