Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
- 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC, 20007, U.S.A.
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2016
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Executive Sous Chef, Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel)
- Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel); The Fairmont San Francisco; The Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto; The Edgewater Casino, Vancouver; Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel
- Birmingham, England
- Masters Certificate in Hospitality Management, Cornell University; Diplomas in Professional Cookery, University College Birmingham, Food & Tourism Studies, Birmingham, England
- English, a little bit of French
“I’m putting my own brand on things, of course,” says Andrew Court of his role as Executive Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC, “but my way of making changes is from the inside, not from the outside.”
Appointed in fall 2017, Court oversees the Hotel’s various culinary and event operations, fashioning menus for the legendary power-dining spot Seasons and the adjacent, stand-alone wine bar ENO, while working closely with the team at the renowned Michael Mina-produced contemporary American steakhouse BOURBON STEAK.
He was quick to acknowledge their ongoing successes and recognise that the talent in the kitchens clicks for a reason. “My walking in and saying, ‘You’re doing this wrong’ would not be the best approach,” he says, noting that he prefers “to get to know the sous chefs and crew and then work out issues as they arise and teach them new ways to maximise their performance.” That approach has the added benefit of smoothing the way for growth under his guidance. “My goal is for people to become more than they were when I started. I try to plant seeds. The different ways people learn are inspiring to me.”
A “mixer and a mingler” by nature, Court is not only hands-on in the kitchen, but personality-on in the dining room. “How do you know what people desire if you don’t speak with them? Building connections is the best way to find out what our guests like so we can deliver it.” That is particularly true given the high-gloss clientele the Hotel attracts, he says, just as it was at Court’s previous posting as Executive Sous Chef at Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel). “The clients may be somewhat different, but guest expectations are guest expectations. They’re paying for the freshness and vibrancy we provide.”
The same holds true for Court’s role with the Hotel’s events operation, which has long been a player, particularly for weddings, on the local event scene. “I’ve helped tie a lot of knots in my career,” he says with a laugh, detailing readiness to bring the Hotel’s restaurant experience to its event spaces and tailor menus specific to what couples desire. Indeed, “the banquet menu is not the be-all and end-all of what our operation can do,” he says. “Every couple and their families have moments they want to create. Our goal is to be part of those moments and a really good part of their memories.”
Born and raised in Birmingham, England back when the city was “all car factories and things like that,” Court developed a youthful passion for fresh ingredients while puttering in the family garden, where he helped grow vegetables and worked assiduously to “keep a dozen types of mint in check” lest they overtake the plot. “I remember being fascinated watching things grow from little seeds.” He also spent a lot of time preparing meals in the kitchen with his grandmother. “She was the one who really taught me.”
The English educational system taught him further: Court began taking cooking classes at age 14, and he started in restaurants as a dishwasher at 16. “The guy who got me going was great chef named Charles Barr who was good at recognising talent – or cheap labour.” The first time Court put on a chef’s hat and an apron “was a very proud day,” he recalls. “I’ve always aspired to inspire and develop talent the same way others did for me.”
With big hotels “the places to be,” Court found work with major international groups first in England, then in Europe, then in Bermuda and Antigua before making his way to North America with assignments across Canada and, most recently, California.
Whatever the locale, he has always marinated a passion for sustainable ingredients, including keeping kitchen gardens and training as a beekeeper. “I had eight hives at a hotel in Toronto and six hives in San Francisco.”
An experienced hand for sure, Court does his best to continue moving forward and stay on top of new developments in the hotel industry and the kitchen, including earning a masters certificate in hospitality management from Cornell University just a year before joining Four Seasons in 2016. “Just trying to keep up with the millennials,” he explains with a laugh. Meanwhile, he’s enjoying the Hotel’s proximity to a wealth of historical and cultural institutions throughout the nation’s Capital. “I’ve always loved museums. I’ll visit every one I can find.”