An interview from Great City Chef 2019 contestant, Alfi Cobley


What made you become a chef?

I have had a strong passion for food for as long as I can remember. I guess it started in childhood where I would always help mum cook. I first remember helping my mum baking, we used to make cupcakes, and then as I got older I used to help with the Sunday roast.

What is your previous experience in kitchens?

I took food-tech at school. This is where I really started to put my passion into practice. I went onto further develop my skill-set at Westminster Kingsway College in their culinary department where in my final year, I specialised in kitchen larder. I was fortunate enough to have great work experience at Claridges. I started washing dishes and doing prep-jobs and worked my up from there.

When I started to work at One Moorgate Place, I was lucky enough to work with a professional chef and personal friend Adam Daniels who really allowed me to experiment with food and a variety of dish compositions. I have worked for OMP for a year now and have just been promoted to Junior Sous Chef, which means I now do a bit of everything. 

How would you describe your cooking style and what are your influences?

There is nothing I don't like cooking! If I had to choose a cooking style I would say I prefer fine-dining. I like exploring a variety of flavours and making a beautiful dish that has taken a lot of thought and time to prepare. I do prefer kitchen as opposed to pastry. I prefer cooking refined dishes because I feel it showcases my skills, both in terms of culinary creativity and plating-up.

What does a mid-week meal look like for you?

Well, it could be anything really. I have a very large family with 4 brothers so there is a lot of cooking to be done! Growing up, a normal mid-week meal would be consist of dishes such as: lasagne, Sheperd’s pie, Sausage and Mash, all of which cooked fresh by my mum with the gradual help from me as I got older.

Who would your dream dinner guests be and what would you cook for them?

My granddad. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to cook for him. He has been an inspiration for me throughout my career so far, it all started from him working as a fruit & veg merchant and him growing vegetables at home. I obviously took some of this on, but If I had the chance to cook for anyone, it would be him.

What would you like to get out of the Great City Chefs Competition?

Experience. I haven't done anything like this before so this is a fresh, new challenge and an opportunity to see other ideas from great chefs. I don't think it's going to be easy. I had a glimpse at the final dishes last year so I know the standards expected at the final banquet.

What would you say is your inspiration?

I have had various people who have really inspired me throughout my career – my first cooking inspiration would be my mum. Coming from such a large family, meant she had a hard task of catering from all of needs growing up, and she did a great job of it.  At college,  we were lucky enough to have a range of guest-chefs come into college to teach us about their experience in the food industry. They acted as key role models and influencers so I would say they definitely had something to do with it! I also follow key chefs on Instagram which always keeps me up to date!

How involved are you with regards to the design of the menu?

For my dishes, my concept is using the whole of the animal or a part that isn't widely used. I believe discarded parts of an animal can have great or even better flavour if cooked correctly in comparison to traditional cuts of meat. I chose this with the centralised theme of sustainability in mind. Plus, more chefs moving towards this way or working and are conscious of food waste so I thought that it would go down well with the judges!

When are you happiest at work?

I am happiest when I am producing something that I have created from scratch, whether at it's for an event or when doing prep. I thrive when using my ideas and when I have made other people happy with my food. I am always looking for ways to improve so I can make a dish the best it can be.

What is your favourite comfort food?
Proper cottage pie in the winter, with crispy mash and lots of gravy, but it has to be Bisto!

What restaurant did you last eat at?

Blacklock in Soho, it’s a meat heavy restaurant. They do an ‘all in’ dish which you get lots of different cuts / chops of meat, and it’s all served on top of a flatbread which soaks up all the meat juices. It was amazing.