Having been born in Canada, raised in New Zealand and with Danish grandparents living just a stone’s throw away, it’s no wonder that London based chef, Anna Hansen takes her inspiration from cultures and cuisines around the world.
Her approach to food uses modern ingredients to liven up every day dishes and has won her not only critical acclaim, but has also seen her awarded an MBE. Anna’s love of being a chef stems from the creativity her approach allows her; not being confined by any particular cuisine or region means she can cherry-pick her favourite flavours and combine them in new and innovative ways.
Anna Hansen’s chefing career began after two declined applications to teacher training college and a degree in business management, which would later come in handy. Her journey is consistently marked by one characteristic; working with great people, and when asked why she loves her chosen profession, this is precisely one of the reasons she gives.
Starting out washing dishes in the kitchen of the French House Dining Room (her housemate’s sister’s restaurant - Kiwi chef Margo Henderson, nee Clayton), she was not only introduced to the culinary world, but also to chefs such as Fergus Henderson and Peter Gordon who trained, mentored and inspired her.
Anna would later go on to work with Peter Gordon at Green Street private members club, the Sugar Club and eventually they would co-own the Providores. Along the way, she also spent a year working with Stephanie Alexander in Melbourne, as well as with other well-known chefs in New Zealand.
Upon leaving the Providores in 2005, Anna’s plans to write a cook book morphed into a much bigger undertaking; launching her own restaurant. The Modern Pantry opened in 2008 and now employs 80 staff across its two sites; a chic, sophisticated café in Clerkenwell, and the more recently opened Alpha Beta bar in Finsbury Square. The Modern Pantry has been awarded two AA rosettes from 2008 through 2012 and has been listed as a "Bib Gourmand" in the Michelin Guide 2009 and 2010.
The Modern Pantry cookbook came to life in 2011 and shares some of Anna’s customers’ favourite recipes, encouraging home cooks to broaden their horizons and experiment with new flavours. The book took a slightly different path than the original vision, but Anna hopes to write a follow up book in the future, exploring modern ingredients and how best to use them.
In 2012, Anna was awarded the MBE recognising her as being one of the few female chefs to have left a mark on the London dining scene. She humbly admits that she would never have expected this to happen and that she was nervous, but honoured to be presented the award by Prince Charles, during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.
At home, Anna likes to keep meals simple, often cooking for her partner and young daughter. Favourites in her household are stir-fries or roast fish and vegetables with steamed greens, but she admits that she always has ‘a thousand spices to hand.’
And her advice for budding home cooks?
“Don’t under-season your food!” she cries passionately. “People have become afraid of salt, but a little bit can really help to bring out the flavours in your food. Himalayan sea salt is good for you, so invest in that.”
More information on the Modern Pantry can be found below: