Exceptional food is what drives and unites us all at Rocket, and we are immensely proud to have a talented kitchen team who are at the backbone of everything we do.
Due to the multifaceted nature of Rocket and the three components of our business, we have two head chefs – Alex Stanbridge, who is the Head Chef of event catering at Rocket, and Mathieu Defrasne, Head Chef of development, who leads on Made by Rocket, Pocket Rocket, and A Cook’s Tour. We sat down with them to hear a little bit more about their background, their favourite chefs and restaurants, and the best part about working at Rocket.
I started my career doing work experience with the Army Barracks in Colchester where I worked in the kitchen and became really interested in cooking. I loved the comradery, the banter among the chefs, and the way everyone worked hard and took great care in what they did. It really opened up my eyes to how organised you have to be with cooking. I then went onto culinary school where I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand and the United States – it made me realise there was so much more to food than I initially thought.
After college, I eventually made my way to London where I started at the Savoy and worked at several Michelin starred restaurants. Looking for a bit of a change, I spent time working in private aircraft catering which gave me exposure to working in events. I loved that every event is quite different so you’re always learning, plus there’s a lot more energy and excitement. I then went on to join Bubble and worked my way up to Senior Sous Chef, and I happily joined Rocket earlier this year.
My favourite restaurant is Paul Ainsworth’s No. 6 in Cornwall. He started it with his wife and it’s just amazing food using the best of local produce from Cornwall.
When I’m at home I normally cook anything my daughter will eat (she’s one) and if we’re entertaining, I love to BBQ. My favourite tipple is an espresso martini.
The best part about working in events is all the variety. One evening you’re doing an intimate dinner, the next it’s a canape reception for several hundred, or creating amazing and diverse food stalls. When you work in a restaurant, you often don’t get to see the customers, but when you’re at an event you can see people eating and enjoying your food – and seeing their reactions makes it incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.
Before I started college, I did some work experience at my Uncle’s restaurant where I fell in love with cooking and knew I wanted to take it a step further. I then went onto culinary school in Bordeaux and continued to study this at university, where I did a placement year at Epsom and was asked to return when I graduated. I then moved to London and I’ve been working here ever since. I absolutely love London and there have always been amazing job opportunities which means I’ve never left!
I worked in a variety of Rosette and Michelin-starred restaurants before wanting to try something a bit new, so I joined Alison Price where I was Senior Sous Chef for On Air Dining, then went freelance and ran events for the company for four years. And that’s where I first met Chef Alex! In 2019 I joined Rocket as Head Chef of Events and I am now Head Chef of Development, working on A Cook’s Tour, Pocket Rocket, and Made by Rocket, in addition to helping run events.
Although I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, some of my favourite Rocket dishes are those that put vegetables centre stage. The courgette crudo is one of my favourite starters, and I love the roasted cauliflower with Roscoff onion and giant couscous cannelloni – it has baba ganoush and smoked hummus and so much flavour, it’s hard to believe it’s vegan! I also love the new butternut squash canapé from the Pocket Rocket Burlington Collection.
My favourite chef is Grant Achatz, who I discovered when I was first starting to get into molecular gastronomy. His story of surviving tongue cancer and losing his sense of taste for a period of time is so inspiring, and his book had a huge impact on me. I am dying to go to his restaurant Alinea in Chicago – I drop hints to my girlfriend every year!
Lately, my favourite thing to cook at home is ramen – I love putting all the different components together and making a really good broth. Tea-stained eggs are a revelation. But of course, when I’m too tired to cook, I love to order a pizza. And I never say no to a negroni!
Lockdown was hard, but we did a lot of incredible things at Rocket, like creating over 25,000 meals for NHS key workers and launching some really exciting projects like Pocket Rocket and A Cook’s Tour. There was a real sense of camaraderie among everyone, and it’s a testament to the solid team and people that make up the company.