Five Minutes with Chef Amber Francis

Words by
Nicole Panteloucos
Photography by
Rebecca Dickson

24th May 2023

Maene is the rooftop restaurant at East London's biggest yoga centre, Mission, and the perfect place to enjoy locally sourced, seasonal dishes created by its award-winning head chef, Amber Francis. We catch up with Amber as Maene launches their summer menu.


After studying at at The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, my first head chef role was... at the Zebra Riding Club. I was fortunate to be shortlisted for The Staff Canteen One to Watch Award. I’ve also won the British Restaurant Award’s Young Chef of the Year and competed in Great British Menu.

Cooking on camera is tricky! You’ve got to watch out for the cameras and the people running them but I was actually surprised with how I was able to get into the flow of things and just cook.

My food philosophy involves… keeping things as simple as possible to let the ingredients shine through. My style is very seasonal and inspired by the amazing producers and suppliers we have in the UK.

Amber Francis
Maene Head Chef Amber Francis (Photo credit Rebecca Dickson)

Working alongside Michelin star chefs… gave me a reality check to what the industry is really like. I really saw the positives and the hardships but it showed me that cooking was my vocation.

When people come to Maene I really want them to feelsurprised by the ingredients that we are able to gather from a very local radius. We work with the nearby Spitalfields City Farm which is a great community project. I’d also like people to feel welcomed here and have an amazing experience with friends and family. I do what I do to make people happy and create memories.

If you’re new to Maene you must try… the Cornish mussels. They’re served in a smoked cider sauce with wild garlic oil. It’s the perfect dish for sitting out on our terrace with a glass of white wine.

Tomato Tart at Maene
Nutbourne tomato tart with smoked tomato chutney at Maene, by head chef Amber Francis

In my cooking I'm currently experimenting with… trusting my instincts! There’s always imposter syndrome and there’s always doubt but I’m really trying to put my faith in myself and trust that my instincts will guide me.

My favourite dish on Maene’s menu… is the tomato tart. It’s very simple but the skill is in balancing its flavours and seasoning. 

I became a mental health advocate with Kelly’s Cause because… mental health affects us all. Kelly’s Cause focuses on training mental health first aiders within the restaurant industry.

Pork loin spring greens with hazelnut pesto
Pork loin spring greens with hazelnut pesto at Maene, by head chef Amber Francis

When I’m not working you’ll find me… feeding my chickens! I’ll feed them in the morning than my partner and I will probably go for a walk along the canal in London before heading home to cook a meal and share it with  friends or family. Very simple but good walks, good food and cuddles with chickens are all you need in life. 

Some ingredients I can’t live without… vinegar is a really underused seasoning. Garlic also goes with everything. At Maene, we have this amazing confit whipped garlic emulsion which is great on toast. I also love Greengages when they are in season, they’re my favourite fruit. You can only have them twice a year but when you do its worth it. 

Sea buckthorn sorbet, smoked rapeseed oil, 70% chocolate
Sea buckthorn sorbet, smoked rapeseed oil, 70% chocolate by head chef Amber Francis

My most prized possession is… My notebook that I keep all my recipes in. It’s got handwritten recipes from throughout the entirety of my career. I’ve had to move onto new notebooks since, but I always go back to that little red notebook. 

The best meal I’ve ever had… Timberyard in Edinburgh. I went there last year for my birthday. What the Head Chef James Murray is doing there is absolutely fantastic. They did a wine paring and a soft drinks pairing which was really mind-blowing. 

The next project on my mind is… opening the summer terrace at Maene. We are so excited to be able to welcome people there, its got a fantastic view. I think summer here is going to be a really special thing. 

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