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Chef Alex Bond of Alchemilla Nottingham talks to Chef’s table

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Chef Alex Bond has been cooking since he was 19 years old and most of his working life has mainly been in Michelin-starred kitchens including 42 The Calls in Leeds, Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham, Auberge du Lac in Hertfordshire and Turners in Birmingham.

It has been for some time his ambition to open his own restaurant. Alchemilla recently opened in Nottingham is the realisation of that. Alchemilla has been two years in the making with the project to turn an old 19th-century coaching house, which had remained empty for over 150 years, into a modern light space for a restaurant, whilst retaining the character of the building.

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The food is clean, fresh and a talking point with diners as the menus have elements that they won’t  necessarily have tried before. Alex is a keen gardener and is also married to a gardener so he uses vegetables and plants as centre stage in the cooking. With the resulting dishes delighting and surprising people with the flavours that can be achieved by letting vegetables feature prominently in the menu.

We wanted to know a little more about Chef and his plans:

Q: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continuous to influence you now?

A: Every chef I have worked for has influenced me whether it’s for good or bad reasons, we can learn from all of these experiences whether its cooking techniques and philosophies, how I wanted to treat my staff or run my business

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A: Top of my list at the moment are Hedone, Saison, L’astrance and Attica

Q: What is set to be the next ‘new’ ingredient? And which in particular interests you.

A: There’s been a real shift towards less protein in my cooking over the last 4 years and that seems to be a big thing in this country. I know it’s very Nordic but my plant-based cooking feels very British which I love.

 

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Q: If there were a “Fantasy League” of Chefs who would make up your perfect brigade?

A: I would have to go with Nathan Outlaw on the fish, Gareth Ward on the sauce, James Petrie on the pastry, myself on the vegetables, Tom Spencley and Tony Parkin on the larder

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Q: What foods or styles of cooking do you enjoy cooking the most and which do you most like to eat?

A: I love cooking with vegetables, a large hand dived scallop almost does the work for you whereas a cabbage or cauliflower needs thought, effort and skill

 

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

A: Cauliflower, roasted yeast, almond

 

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: I would love to smash out a service with Pascal Barbot of L’astrance in Paris

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My Favourite Tables – a restaurant I have visited several times and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Ynyshir. Gareth Ward is doing some of the most innovative food in the country and I have had 4 meals there and it just goes from strength to strength

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Chef’s Table chats to Luke French – Chef Patron of Jöro Restaurant, Sheffield.

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There are shipping container restaurants and then there are Shipping Container restaurants, Jöro in Sheffield is the latter. The restaurant is situated inside Krynki, a revolutionary new space created to showcase the best and most exciting independent start-ups and businesses from Sheffield, where they can share space, skills and innovative ideas.

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Chef’s Table & Luke French – Chef Patron at Jöro Restaurant in Sheffield

“I started off working as a Kitchen Porter at The White Pheasant in Fordham near Cambridge when I was 14 and then I got really interested in what the chefs were doing. I wanted to have a crack at it so I went full time into the restaurant after my GCSE’s.

I stayed at the Pheasant for about 4 years before moving into Cambridge and working in the university kitchens and local hotels.

“I was very lucky to have a couple of great restaurants locally and spent time at both Alimentum and Midsummer House. Sadly, I didn’t last very long at Midsummer, I bottled it! I was young and I definitely wasn’t ready for it at that time. Looking back I gave up on it way too quickly! I left to do a stage at The Fat Duck and ended up carrying on working there before travelling and working in Asia.

“I was not away long when the opportunity to take on the Head Chef position back at the White Pheasant was offered to me, which I jumped at. It was a couple of years later I moved to Sheffield to join The Milestone Pub Group in which over the six years I worked for them I progressed to Executive Head Chef for the Group.

Towards the end of my time with them, I began a pop-up restaurant called Joro (which translates as ‘Earth’ in old Norse.) to test myself and test the waters of Sheffield to see if they were ready for it. I ran the pop up for around 9 months in which time it gave me space to think and hone in what I really wanted to cook and serve, the style of service, find and train a team, and get some hype for the idea of opening a restaurant.

In December of 2016, we opened restaurant Jöro

Q: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continues to influence you now?

First of all of the famous chefs was Gordon Ramsay, I remember reading his books and watching him on TV when I was a kid, just starting to realize I enjoyed cooking and didn’t really have a clue about any other chefs in the world, I admired him! He got me interested in the industry. My first head chef Stuart Trangmar was a big influence, he is a great chef and taught me a great deal. He has a great palate and taught me a lot about flavour and tasting food. Heston Blumenthal was a big inspiration to me when I really started to pay close attention to cooking and I was obsessed with the science behind it so naturally, he inspired me a lot.

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I then began to really enjoy naturalness and simplicity of using ingredients once I realized how complex cooking can be but doesn’t have to be – Rene Redzepi and many of the Nordics – based chefs Like Torsten Vildgaard, Matt Orlando, Esben Holmboe Bang to name a few were where I would look to for inspiration. The most present inspirational chefs to me are Gareth Ward from Ynyshir in Wales and Kristian Baumann of 108 in Copenhagen, I really love what these guys are doing in their restaurants. They inspire me a great deal. Of course, my team influence me on a daily basis, they all have similar ways of looking at things and ideas organically come together very well.

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Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

It would have to be a roast rib of well-aged beef on the bone, with all the proper trimmings.

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Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

I wanted to join the military when I was a kid like most young lads probably do! But I was cooking before I left school and it felt good, so I didn’t look back. It’s the best job in the world.

 

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Too many to mention! But at the top of the list at the moment is Ynyshir, Carters of Moseley and Casamia.

**Fortunately Chef, Ynyshir is featured on Favourite Tables so you can book directly when you’re ready…..

 

Q: Have you ever been presented with a dish/ingredient that you just could not eat and where was that?

I ate at the KOKS pop-up at Den Vandrette in Copenhagen, it was one of my most enjoyable dining experiences I’ve ever had, but there was one dish that I just couldn’t stomach. It was a little cracker with fermented lamb intestine fat shaved over it and it was just insanely strong in flavour, I just couldn’t eat it! I admired and understood the reason they serve it and its traditions, but I just couldn’t do it.

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Q: Which city or country is the most innovative in terms of food?

Personally, I think Either Denmark or Spain – the diversity and creativity coming out of them is insane.

 

Q: What is set to be the next ‘new’ ingredient? And which in particular interests you.

Well, It isn’t new, its thousands of years old but it is only now beginning to really hit a lot of chefs reach, and is gaining more attraction; it is Koji – grains that have been cooked and inoculated with Aspergillus Oryzae (a friendly bacteria). It’s the building blocks for soy sauce, miso, sake and so on.

We have been experimenting with it for over a year now at JÖRO, so early days! But it has completely changed the way we cook now and it is part of our cooking DNA. Incredible stuff. We began using it traditionally to make miso’s and following other recipes we’d researched, and then we took a different path with it and it is used in all sorts from bread to ice creams, brining and curing proteins etc. It is magical stuff.

 

Q: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

As a whole, the service we as an industry provide, and the food we deliver to guests is NOT expensive. The time, labour, thought and energy that goes into providing it all is worth far more than what we charge people for it. It really pisses me off when people think they are being hard done by in an honest restaurant providing high levels of food and service (all aspects of it) and I’m not just speaking about my own. We have such a high level of respect for the people that get our ingredients to us, whether it be a wine producer or farmer, and everyone in between. Sometimes this gets forgotten. People don’t think about what it has taken for them to receive it, from the welfare of an animal to sustainable fishing and farming etc to getting ingredients from them to training people to prepare and serve it, energy consumption, the people that take away the waste etc. It’s all relative, people must understand it more and I do think some restaurants give away too much, however, I do think that some milk it a bit too. It’s a tough topic.

 

Q: With the increased TV food programmes, is there a greater rivalry among chefs?

I don’t think so. Healthy competition! I think it has made us all more aware of each other, brought us together and in my opinion, it has made us talk more and help each other out. At the end of the day we always want to be the best at what we do, it’s natural, but I don’t think anyone should have a rivalry as such, surely this would stem from a personal problem between chefs and not what they’ve seen on TV… it’s more inspirational no?

 

Q: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they be removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

It is the highest accolade. It would make me very happy if we were ever awarded one, either where we are now or in years to come somewhere else. But first comes having a healthy, growing business, happy staff and happy guests, I think if these boxes are ticked and we get better at what we do every day then we can achieve it. But obviously, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to retain these kinds of accolades. I have seen what it takes to retain stars and it is pretty scary to think about if you were ever in the position where it was your reputation on the line…

 

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

Some reviews take the biscuit, but the really bad ones are mostly just because some people do not understand or research into what it is we do and what we offer, or they have made it up! But everything is taken on board seriously and looked into.

All negatives lead to positives. It makes us work harder and focus more, failing is learning, learning is knowledge, knowledge is a big part of is what makes us better at what we do.

Everyone expects different levels of service, has different opinions and palates, and of course we can’t please everyone all of the time as much as I’d like us to, but so long as they don’t happen regularly and the business is not affected and what we do every service is the best we can, then I’m happy. You just have to take them on the chin and react proactively.

 

Q: You have said that although you love where the restaurant is right now the plan is to have a restaurant with adjacent access to land/farm (like Winteringham Fields) What influence do you see that having on the menus.

We would have better control over when and what we serve. Nature is my biggest inspiration of all so obviously being surrounded by open land would better our style of cooking better than a steel city, we’d have to travel less to forage, food miles would be less for some ingredients, to be more self-sustainable would be great, having to depend less on others. Ultimately it would just make me a happier chef so naturally I think it would benefit the menu, the happier we are the more creative we are and the better we cook.

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Wild Mallard with blackcurrant and cabbages. The mallards are shot 8 miles away on the Wortley Estate and brought to us the same day, sometimes still warm! The blackcurrants are from a mile away, picked by the team and preserved, the cabbages are grown half an hour away.

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Paul Cunnigham (Henne Kirkeby Kro), without a doubt! What a legend. It would be a good laugh with plenty of banter, and the look’s good too!

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Fera at Claridges, London – always a solid meal with great service.

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Restaurant (2): Ashoka, Sheffield – banging curry.

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Chef Richard Bainbridge chats with Chef’s Table

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A couple of weeks ago Favourite Tables was in Norwich to meet with BBC Great British Menu “Veteran” guest chef Richard Bainbridge. When we arrived Benedicts Restaurant was not open. however, the greeting we received from the front of house staff who were preparing the venue, was warm and very professional. We immediately felt “at home”.

At the same time as coffees arrived Chef appeared from the downstairs kitchen.
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Chef’s Table with Richard Bainbridge – Chef Patron at Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich

It may be a bit of an old cliche but Chef Richard Bainbridge really is Norwich “born and bred”. In fact, he grew up within 5 miles of where his Bistro style restaurant Benedicts now stands. Richard and partner, wife Katya, opened the restaurant in 2015. Which was almost 23 years exactly from when his first job in a kitchen started.

Coming from a single parent family, not much money and being a Dyxlesia sufferer throw up its own challenges, which he dismissed as “the old sob story”. However starting at age 13 he worked hard took himself off to College where he had a chance meeting with and then started to work for the Chef Patron of local Michelin Stared Morston Hall. After Morston Hall and having never been on an Aeroplane, Richard left the UK at age 18 and took on a role at the Red Lion Inn, a 500 room hotel, in Stockbridge Massachusetts. The difference between the 32 covers at Morston to the mass catering of two dining halls at the Red Lion taught him a number of important lessons. When 9/11 happened one of only three people who called him from the UK (His Mum and Sister being the others) was Galton Blackiston from Morston Hall. Richard returned to Morston Hall two months later.

Later that year he moved to The Waterside Inn starting as a Junior Commis and left 4 years later as a Sous Chef, one of the youngest to work there at that time. He categorises this period as like going to University

 

Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

A: I wanted to be a Postman… But I’m Dyslexic so I could not read all the postcodes. It would have been my dream job because I could have got up early and be done by lunchtime that was in my head, plus my Mum told me they did a great pension.

This is a good story, well not really a story as it’s true. My mum did the books at a local pub/restaurant and my sister worked behind the bar, this was when I must have been thirteen, in fact, it was the day after my thirteenth birthday I did my first shift as a kitchen porter at the same pub. I immediately felt “at home” I really did. I felt this is something I can do. It may be because I realised that I could watch a chef put a dish together, I did not have to write anything down, and I could make that dish. So I watched everything I could to learn and still do. The end of that story is that twenty years later almost to the hour, so I was 33 and at six o’clock the day after my birthday Katja my wife and I got the key to my own restaurant.

Q: Who influenced you in the past? Who influences you now?

A: My Grandmother, she cooked in a very homely way and that has stuck with me. I want people who dine at Benedicts to have an experience that when they leave be it one or two hours later, they feel that they have just spent time being immersed in something that feels almost homely, a pleasurable time that evokes memories as much as creates memories. They don’t need to think its the best food they have ever had, but as they walk down the road after leaving us and if they think that was really lovely and a couple of hours well spent with the family or friends they are with, that’s perfect for me.

Also, a big influence in my career was and still is, Michel Roux Snr and my time at The Waterside Inn. Everyone worked really hard for 11 months without a break and would be flagging by the end of the year. He could have 70 staff in a room, talk in three different languages and by the end of a meeting we would all be skipping back to work full of his enthusiasm, which at the age of sixty-something which he was then, was inspirational.

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and Galton Blackiston who still plays a big part in my career. I worked for him at Morston Hall between the age of 16 – 18 and then I went back when I was 26 and was his Head Chef for 7 years. It was a chance meeting with him while I was at Catering College that lead to me working a couple of summers in his Michelin Stared kitchen, not really knowing at that time what a star was and how important it was. Starting off at the age of 16 working with a team of 4 chefs, Galton being one, and having that 1-on-1 time with him was a real springboard for my career.

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Q: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

I’m not sure we fit the perfect model for Michelin. Benedicts is just my wife and me, no big backers and no millions in the bank. So we will have to be around for awhile to even think of a Star. They have visited several times and have been really supportive of us as an independent restaurant, as have the AA and we think that Rosettes, could, be on the cards maybe next years. Which is incredible when you think we opened with just four members of staff two and a half years ago, to now where we have a team of 20 members of staff. Just knowing the guidebooks are paying an interest into us is massive. I would love to put Norwich on the culinary map much as North Norfolk is now. It would be great to have people come to the city for a foodie break and sample all of the great produce we have access to not just from around the coast, but from the farms and estates just outside Norwich.

 

Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

A: It would have to be my mum’s roast chicken dinner. Even thou it is a bit bland overcooked and the greens are grey, sorry mum… but without doubt, the one thing we would have every Sunday, we would sit down and have a roast chicken it would be the highlight of the week, I would want peas and my sister would want sweetcorn, the Bisto would be wiped up and poured over. All that gives a sense of what food is all about and that represents to me now everything that food is about and what families are – Food is family and family is food and all the rest of it, and you can tie everything to one dish and that’s the one thing now that if I knew my time was coming to an end I would say mum cook me one of your roast dinners and bring it in to me… and I know I would say you’ve overcooked the chicken again. But something in my head would say this is so simplistic but perfect I would be ready to go then…. oh and a Muller Fruit Corner a Strawberry one

Q: How did you feel about being called a “Veteran” when you were a judge on the BBC Great British Menu. From the Central Region Chef’s Pip, Ryan and Nick who’s dishes impressed you the most.

A: I know right.. I have to be honest I was immensely proud, from being 26/27 when I first did the programme and I was too young and I wasn’t ready, I messed it up. But then to have the opportunity and be invited back on was incredible. I can remember Glynn Parnell sending me home on the Thursday and me saying to myself, I’m gonna prove you wrong and I will get to the banquet, alright it took me a few more attempts than I would have liked, but I got there and I remember halfway through when they judged me thinking I’m going to be you one day, I’m gonna have that position. Then to get the call to go on as a veteran, thinking this is brilliant. Getting to the banquet was great but this was the pinnacle of everything I’d started.

As for the Chefs from the central region, the minute Pip put up that starter I knew it would go all the way to the banquet, from the minute I tried it. Not saying the others did not put up some incredible food it’s just Pip’s dish had everything for the brief and the banquet. Then later sitting at the banquet next to Angella Hartnett and seeing Pip’s starter come out first, I felt good to have been a small part of that.

 

Q:  What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

A: The supplier is Thornage Hall which is an amazing place that provides supported Living, work & learning opportunities for Adults with Learning Difficulties on a biodynamic farm in the beautiful Norfolk countryside. The organic vegetables we get from them changes throughout the seasons the quality is incredible and consistent. At the moment as we go into winter some of the dishes on the menu become more simplistic, more wholesome. So we have a carrot dish on just now that uses a nobbily looking carrot that is so pure and nurtured by the guys at Thornage. We roast that in Goats Butter with Chamomile and we roast it off, roast it off so it’s almost deep-fried in foaming butter. Then we finish it off with Chamomile Mayonaise, a carrot top sauce so we make an emulsion from the tops and then some pickled carrot discs, then we have some deep fried carrot tops and some raw carrot tops, some chickweed, that grows around the carrots, so they work together. It just shows perfect respect for the carrot and how it is grown for us by the people at Thornage Hall.

We know that everything is picked during the day and then drop it off at my house in the evening and we cook with it the next day and we respect every part of it.

 

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Q: If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

Wow that’s a bit like what’s your favourite album or film. But I think to get the chance to work alongside Escoffier or to even just get a coffee would be incredible because the way that we cook in this modern world is based on his structure, the way that a kitchen is set up is because of him. A lot of the base things we use or expect in a kitchen today were revolutionary in his time.

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Again someone like Paul Bocuse just to spend a little time to understand how things have changed. It would be incredible, the industry has changed so much and I think we do need now and again to just remember that.

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I have just bought a book about Eugénie Brazier this first woman to have a three Michelin Star restaurant and the first chef, male or female, to have six stars across her two restaurants. Who then went on to set up a school for chefs that produced some of the top French Chefs including Paul Bocuse.

My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and Why:

Restaurant 1) would be La Grenouillere just outside Calais http://lagrenouillere.fr 

Head Chef Alexandre Gauthier

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We closed Benedicts for a couple of weeks in the summer and headed to France. La Grenouillere is built inside an old farm building, just beside a stream. A magical place filled with “Steam Punk” ironwork (your phone doesn’t even work) with incredible classical French cuisine and regionality turned on its head, but at the same time we felt very “at home”

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Restaurant 2) would be St. John’s this place is not about the Glam-Rock of cuisine just great tasty food. St. John’s is my go-to place for a Sunday lunch.

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Chef Patron Michael Bremner Talks To Chef’s Table

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Michael Bremner is originally from Aberdeen in the North East of Scotland, he started out washing pots in the country house hotel where his mother worked as a chef. Remaining in Aberdeenshire he started a five-year apprenticeship at The Pittodrie House Hotel and attended a local college one day per week. Once qualified he moved to London to further his experience working as a Demi-Chef de Partie in the pastry section at the Michelin starred Orrery Restaurant. Staying in London he gained experience at a few restaurants including working for Curtis Stone at the award winning restaurant, Quo Vadis.

Michael then worked and travelled for a couple of years spending time in Australia and then Canada where he combined his love of snowboarding with cooking and was a chef in the kitchen of Pan Pacific Hotel, Whistler in Canada, before returning to the UK and settling in Brighton where he now runs his own restaurant 64 Degrees.

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Since it opened, 64 Degrees has gone from strength to strength, each year being awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin, awarded the number one spot on the Brighton Top 20 in 2016 & 2017 and being voted number 30 in the National Restaurant Top 100 list 2017.

Michael now has more than one restaurant to his name, he has recently opened a relaxed eatery called Murmur (the name comes from the word for a flock of birds moving in unison, a Murmuration) in the arches on the Brighton promenade.

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2017 has been a busy year for him as he also appeared, for the second time, on the popular BBC programme The Great British Menu, where his Main Course dish was selected for the final banquet held at Wimbledon.

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Q: If you were not a chef, what could you have been?

A: When I was younger I always wanted to be a stuntman.

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A: The Ledbury

Q: Is there a food or style of preparing food you would not eat?

A: I like to think that I’m quite adventurous but I don’t think I could ever eat dog.

Q: With the increased TV food programmes, is there a greater rivalry among chefs?

A: With my experience of being on Great British Menu I’d honestly have to say no. I think everyone involved is kind of in the same boat – it’s a very tough, high-pressure environment so if anything there’s a lot of unity between everyone.

Even between the chefs in Brighton, I would say that it’s the same unity rather than rivalry – we actually end up doing a lot of collaborations together

Q: How are you spreading your time between your two restaurants and what are the challenges of having two locations?

A; It’s not easy, I’m not going to lie! I am lucky enough to have a great team at 64 Degrees so at the moment I don’t have to be there every day to make sure the day-to-day running of the kitchen is how it should be, although I’m still heavily involved with working alongside Sam, my Head Chef, in developing the menu.

With Murmur, we opened just as the summer holidays were starting. In Brighton. On the seafront. It’s been pretty crazy and I’ve been in the kitchen there for the vast majority of my time over the past few weeks. It’s all coming together now though and the eventual aim is to get to a point where I’ll be splitting my time evenly between both restaurants. By then I might have forgotten how hard it is and try and open another one!

 

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

A: It’s got to be the braised ox tongue, as much for sentiment than anything, as this is the dish I won Great British Menu with. In terms of the suppliers, pretty much everyone we use is local – BNFS for their great fresh fish, Barfields Butchers, plus at 64 Degrees we get a whole lamb each week from local Saddlescombe Farm and butcher it ourselves, serving different cuts throughout the week.

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Q: If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

A: I would love to have the opportunity to cook with Bob Ovington, who was the guy who first trained me at the Pittodrie House Hotel in Aberdeenshire. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

 

Locally I’d say that my favourite place is The Chilli Pickle. It’s such a great place to eat and my two little girls love it there too so we end up going quite a lot.

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The other place I eat at a lot is Pho. I really enjoy Vietnamese noodle soup and their spicy beef brisket pho dish is right up there for me.

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Head Chef at Adam’s Tom Shepherd talks to Chef’s Table

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Tom Shepherd Profile

Chef Tom Shepherd has a career that includes being Senior Sous Chef in 2 Michelin starred Latymer restaurant at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Head Development Chef at the eponymously name Restaurant Sat Bains, also a holder of 2 Michelin Stars. Tom has recently joined Adam’s in Birmingham which is owned and run by Adam & Natasha Stokes. Adam’s is a 50 cover restaurant in Birmingham city centre on Waterloo Street. Now it’s permanent location having spent almost 3 years as a ‘pop-up’ style restaurant. The restaurant premises has an impressive bar area, private dining room and a chef’s table that overlooks the kitchen.

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Chef Owner Adam Stokes, commented ‘we are really excited Tom is joining the restaurant and looking forward to progressing together, we feel his food ethos and management style will really suit the restaurant’

Tom’s culinary career had more humble beginnings in the Birmingham/Sutton Coldfield area and commented: ‘I am relishing coming to work at Adam’s and alongside Adam and the team to progress to the next level, also that I am returning to my hometown. I  feel that I am joining the best restaurant in Birmingham which has the perfect platform to achieve our targets’.  Could this suggest a second Star for Adam’s is one of this local lads dream targets?

  • How important is it now to be cooking in the town where you grew up?

A. I am delighted to be cooking in my home city, I always knew I would return at some point in my career and for this opportunity it had to be it. I am immensely excited and intrigued to see what the future holds with Adam’s.

  • If you could invite any chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

A. Very simple, Gordon Ramsey. He genuinely was and still is a huge inspiration to me. For what he has done, continues to do for our industry also his own achievements are there for all to see. A true legend who I would one day love to meet and maybe even cook for!

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  • If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants what would they be? 

A. The main misconception about restaurants and food which I would like to change is that some people feel that Michelin star restaurants are posh and stuffy environments that only serve tiny portions of food and you pay a premium for this. This is so far from the truth and the modern interpretation of a Michelin starred restaurant, in actual fact, it is the polar opposite. Here at Adams and many of the top restaurants in the country, we offer an extremely relaxed and comfortable dining experience, that showcases the team’s ethos and skill set of food. Hopefully giving you a meal that surpasses your expectations.

  • If you were not a chef, what could you have been?

A. If I was not a chef I would have been either something to do with sports or racing. I love pretty much all sports from football to fishing and darts to golf. I equally enjoy all types of motor racing, Formula 1, Speedway and Moto GP, so I would definitely be involved in a competitive sport!

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  • With the increases TV food programmes, is there a greater rivalry amongst chefs? 

A. I feel the increase of TV has only strengthened and united the ‘rivalry’ among chefs. It is fantastic that our industry is getting so much coverage and is so popular. There are so many different avenues within this industry and it is great that so many of them are being noticed and prompted. It will only get stronger hopefully with more interest from the new generation of chefs coming through.

  • Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you have not had the opportunity to visit yet)

A. I would love to visit Alinea in Chicago, I have always held this restaurant in very high regard and the book was on another level when I bought it. The food seems so interesting and innovative and it is somewhere that visually excites me and therefore constantly on the top of my ’To go’ list.

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  • What is your favourite dish on the current menu in which you use produce from your most local supplier?
 

A. One of my favourite dishes on the menu at the moment is a Mushroom dish. We use beautiful Scottish foraged Girolles, make a rich roasted puree from the trimmings and it is finished with black truffle, local organic egg yolk, crispy skin also some homegrown micro tarragon. Delicious

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

  1.  Ynyshir restaurant and rooms – @GarethWard1  – @YnyshirRest

This one is simple, Gareth Ward is cooking the tastiest, flavour driven, locally sourced plates of food in the UK. I love him and Ynyshir. It is the complete package, it is all about flavour and the simplistic yet incredible depth of delivery of every course. I can not recommend it enough!

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  1. Henne Kirkeby Kro @coquus69 @paulfood @hennekro             Paul Cunningham at Henne delivered my best dining experience I have ever had, again local and very much flavour driven but using the best ingredients I have ever eaten. I was spoilt rotten and watched them cook it too. It was unorthodox and the most unique team I have ever seen, an institution in how every kitchen can be run. An amazing setting with amazing people serving and producing some absolute knockout food. The best yet.

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Ynyshir

Chef Patron of Ynyshir, Gareth Ward talks to Chef’s Table

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Credit: Gareth-Ward-FJONA-BLACK

Credit: Gareth-Ward-FJONA-BLACK

Gareth Ward is Chef Patron at Ynyshir, a Michelin star, four AA rosette restaurant and rooms which offers dining experiences featuring, in Gareth’s own northern dialect, ‘Alternative British Snap (food)’ packed with flavour. Its location between the Welsh coast and Snowdonia National Park means Gareth can handpick the best ingredients from Wales, and beyond, seeing the whole British Isles as his larder.

Gareth started his cooking career straight out of school aged 16, working in kitchens in the north east before deciding to move to Rutland and take a job at Hambleton Hall. Working in the 1 Michelin star kitchen for five years, he rose from commis chef to junior sous. When he decided to leave Hambleton he moved back north to work at Seaham Hall, which had just gained its star. He stayed here for two years before taking his first Head Chef role at Hart’s Restaurant in Nottingham, a part of the Hambleton family. Whilst here, he was awarded the city’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and gained his first 2AA rosettes.

Gareth’s next step was to move to Restaurant Sat Bains, which when he joined had 1 Michelin star. During his time here as Sous Chef, the restaurant gained its coveted second star and came in the San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants, whilst being a regular in the top 10 of the Good Food Guide.

In 2013, Gareth was ready to take the reins again himself and arrived at Ynyshir, then named Ynyshir Hall, as their new head chef. In his first full year, he was awarded his first Michelin Star and then gained 4AA Rosettes shortly afterwards, the only place in Wales at the time to hold the accolade, and the first time for Ynyshir. Success continued as Gareth was also noted as the Good Food Guides ‘Chef to Watch’, receiving 7/10 and placing the restaurant in the UK’s Top 50. Ynyshir was in the final two restaurants in the UK in the Cateys ‘Menu Watch’ and included in the Times Top 100 Restaurants, one of only 4 in Wales.

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In September 2016, Gareth was made Chef Patron of Ynyshir, at which point he and his partner Amelia Eriksson, General Manager, made the decision to convert from a hotel to a Restaurant with Rooms, renaming the business as just ‘Ynyshir’. Gareth and the team are hugely passionate about using the best ingredients to create dining experiences that surprise guests with flavour on another level.

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2017 has seen Gareth and Amelia continue working on the property’s refurbishment, with each stage moving Ynyshir further away from a traditional country house hotel, towards an exceptional destination restaurant with rooms. Favourite tables welcomed Ynyshir to it’s Unique Destinations programme early in 2017 and recently chatted with Gareth and asked the following questions:

What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question” An epic Sunday roast, cooked by me!

Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet) Maaemo in Oslo which was awarded 3 michelin stars in the last guide

How important is a Michelin star? For us and our location, it is very important – there has to be a reason to get people to come out to see us and having a star is the start of putting us on the map. To push forward to progress to 2 stars is our goal so that we could really turn Ynyshir into a destination for food.

What do you think about reviews? They are very important to spread the word and hopefully increase business.

Your Menu says “with a Japanese twist” how is this evident in the food and where did this influence come from. Our menus are very much about being British ingredient led and flavour packed, we just use a few ingredients that are of Japanese origin. These, such as miso, mirin and soy, are used because they allow us to get as much flavour out of the other ingredients, and are so light that you can still eat 20-courses and not be too full.

What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier? Salt Welsh Wagyu Rib with Shiitake

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If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why? Alex Bond (who has just opened his first restaurant in Nottingham called Alchemilla) because he is a complete legend!

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Favourite Tables…. Please give us the name of and why you dine there of two restaurants that you have visited a couple of times. If you know twitter, Facebook & web address please include

 

Alchemilla (www.alchemillarestaurant.uk) because Alex is doing some amazing things with home grown ingredients in a very cool space

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Bar Iberico (www.baribericotapas.com) because I love eating small plates of things and the relaxed atmosphere it has.

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Lympstone

Chef’s Table talk with Chef Michael Caines MBE

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Chef Michael Caines grew up near Exeter where his parents, who were school teachers recognised his early interest in food and cooking and set him on his way to a culinary career. Following two years of catering college, an Exeter chef sent him to the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. He was then recommended to Raymond Blanc in Oxfordshire, for whom he had to do a three-day trial without pay. Three years later, Blanc arranged for him to cook at the Michelin three-star Cote d’Or in Burgundy. He cooked there for 15 months before moving to another three-star establishment, Restaurant Jamin, in Paris.

Michael’s career to date has been well documented, through to becoming Head Chef at Gidleigh Park Hotel in Devon.

Early In 2017, Michael opened Lympstone Manor, a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant set in Parkland overlooking the river Exe near Exmouth, Devon. He describes Lympstone as “the realisation of a dream, my vision of country house hospitality for the 21st Century”. This has been a very personal project for him and one that has seen him involved in every detail. From the first vines being planted to establish a vineyard in the estate to produce, in three years time, a house champagne-method sparkling wine.

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We asked Michael about his continued involvement in catering for the Williams Formula 1 team.

Q: You have spent a couple of seasons working with the Williams F1 team, in particular in Monaco… how much fun was that and what was Monaco in 2017 like?

A: Being anywhere with Williams F1 is amazing but Monaco is the best. This year I was able to cook on a yacht for Williams and go to their VIP party, along with attending events on the Financial Times yacht. I was also invited to Martini’s VIP party which was a brilliant evening. We have also just held a charity event with Williams here at the manor.

 

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Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you have not had opportunity to visit)

A: I would like to visit Japan, there are many restaurants there I would like to try in particular  Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo and Hujime in Osaka.

 

Q: Japanese cuisine sometimes includes ingredients we may not be familiar with, Is there a food you would not eat?

A: Bugs, or anything very obscure like a form of testicles or spiders.

Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

A: I would make this the longest meal ever, most probably a tasting menu which included a seafood platter to start followed by roast chicken with a combination of summer fruits and sorbet to finish.

Q: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/food, what would they be?

A: I view food like it is an elite sport, great food, and food wealth is what it’s about. Not about the expense but how well it is cooked and how good it is. There is plenty of places that have great food and are cheaper. It’s to do with the combination of flavours and spices.

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Q: What is your favourite dish at Lympstone Manor in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

A: There is a number at present, however Jacobs Lamb, boulangerie & confit shoulder, pea puree and tapenade jus, the lamb is from Powderham Castle, which we can see from our terrace.

Q: If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

A: Keith Floyd because he is a legend.

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Favourite Tables were delighted to include Lympstone Manor on our Unique Destinations pages and wondered what you would consider as your own favourite tables….

Firstly Zuma in London because of its fusion of Japanese cooking and Asian styled foods, and then  The Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc – it is my favourite country house hotel, the food and experience is exceptional.

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Chef Steven Ellis talks to Chef’s Tables

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Steven Ellis

It is our great pleasure to speak with Steven Ellis, who is Chef Patron at the newly opened Oxford Blue, “a pub that serves great food” – that’s his introduction to what is one of the most popular New Openings of 2017.

Originally from Lancashire, Steven spent most of his childhood growing up in the Middle East. Aged 16 he returned to England, enrolling at the Birmingham College of Food & Tourism, before moving to London to follow his dream.

Steven’s talents were developed working in well-known restaurants such as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and the three Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, but his vision of creating an extraordinary culinary experience within the comfort of a country style gastro pub came from his time spent at Andrew Pern’s Star Inn in Harome.

His passion to promote a part of our country’s heritage that hasn’t so much been forgotten but needs to be brought back to life drives him. His dishes are sophisticated yet familiar, a perfect match for the relaxed surroundings that this charming pub has to offer.

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We asked chef how he would best describe the Oxford Blue:

” I think of the Oxford Blue very much as a pub. We have locals who come in for a drink and also people who like to come in to dine with us. The beauty of the Oxford Blue is that you can come for a casual drink while reading the newspaper by the open fire or come in with friends for a meal. But also you can bring the other half and enjoy a romantic meal for two. The Oxford Blue has the ability to change for everyone’s needs whether it be a quick meal at lunch or a long evening of 3-4 courses with friends and family.”

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The Oxford Blue has had some amazing reviews and coverage in the press, we asked – What do you think about reviews?

“I feel reviews are healthy for restaurants but only if they are presented in a constructive way, so the owners and staff can take it on board and help better themselves and their business. It’s always good to get an outsiders opinion as sometimes the obvious things can be overlooked when you are working long hours and focused on delivering what you believe to be the best you can do. What I don’t agree on is when someone has a grudge towards a business or just unhappy with them and because of this come in with a negative attitude where everything the restaurant does is seen as ‘wrong’ “

You have worked in Fine Dining Michelin Star awarded restaurants. How important is a Michelin star?

“The benefits I feel a restaurant achieves by obtaining a star is that one, they earn the right to be listed in this exclusive guide but also become noticed by a wider audience of foodies, people who share the same passion for eating out as we do for delivering a high level food and service. But can also attract people who appreciate the hard work that is put into delivering a great experience.”

Achieving your dream here at Oxford Blue must have been hard work, who influenced you in the past?

“One of my biggest idols, since I was young, has to be Marco Pierre White. The passion he had to deliver the best experience to his guests is inspiring but, also the way he liked to push boundaries and not follow the trends proved to me that if you believe in something don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise because you have a responsibility to yourself to make sure it comes true! “

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If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

“As I mentioned previously my idol being Marco Pierre White it would only feel right in saying that I would love to cook alongside this industry legend for one night”.

What is your favourite dish on the Oxford Blue menu in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

“My favourite dish has to be my ‘suckling pig’s trotter’. But, in regards to local suppliers and having such a huge passion for using game, I work very closely with the head game keeper of Windsor Great Park. Being able to use an abundance of different types of Game, it allows my imagination to run wild with ideas I only once dreamt of being able to create”.

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Staying with favourite dishes, What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

“Most likely a Venison Wellington, being such a lover of all things ‘game’ “

 

Finally, Favourite Tables, where do you like to dine when you get the chance and the time away from your own kitchen.

 

To be Confirmed…..

 

 

 

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Scottish Produce Perceptions with Chef Mark Greenaway

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We were delighted last week to catch up again with Chef Mark Greenaway for a second Chef’s Table interview.  When we reminded him that it was back at the beginning of 2014 we last did a full interview we both decided to move on….quickly.

One thing that has not changed is Mark’s passion for Scottish ingredients, it’s producers and the need to change the perception that Scotland not only produce amazing ingredients but can also create fabulous food. “Although we complain about the weather, it is the climate that contributes to how good our food tastes, just look at our amazing summer berries.  When I worked in Australia I never ate the berries because they did not compare to the ones grown at home, which had the benefit of cool nights, spring rain and slow growing which created a much fuller flavour.  If you include our incredible sea food, venison and Aberdeen Angus beef – these are all products and suppliers I am proud to work with”

Mark has been delighting his customers at his eponymous Restaurant Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh since opening in 2013. Mark’s menu at his 3 AA Rosettes establishment are always intriguing with a presentation that is a culinary delight to both the eye and palate.

We asked Mark was there a chef that had an impact on him or who he would like to spend a day with.  “Marco Pierre White when he was at Harveys and his book White Heat changed the direction of my career. It was at a time that I had thought about moving and working in London.

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When an agency chef brought a copy of the book with him in the kitchen and I could not believe that food could be created and plated like that – it was mind blowing! It made me question what we were doing at that time and we had 2 Rosettes and were creating good food.  Remember, back then there was no Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver and the internet was still young.  Instead of going to London, I talked to some friends who had been backpacking and they suggested I should go to Australia where I would find interesting styles of food – so I went!”

With his passion for cooking beginning at just 15 it was a move from Glasgow to Lanark that saw his culinary career really starting in 1992.  Mark then went on to gain valuable experience during his 5-year stint in Australia, working at some of the nation’s top establishments. Mark says “the standard of cookery in Australia was on a par with what you would find in London at the time” adding “the outdoor parks and beach life did win hands down”

On his return to Scotland, Mark continued his profession at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, Kilcamb Lodge Hotel in Strontian and The Dryburgh Abbey Hotel in the Scottish Borders. Away from the kitchen, Mark has taught at Braehead Cookery School and the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, as well as giving regular cookery demonstrations at food events including Foodies Festival, Taste of Edinburgh, Hotel Olympia in London and the Scottish Chefs Conference.

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We spoke to Mark about Perceptions, his simply beautiful book, which not only is about Mark’s recipes but also gives you an insight to and the stories that surround Mark and his team.  Sharing with us his relationships with suppliers, none of whom had seen the book prior to printing, is a testament not only to the importance he places on local produce but an opportunity to tell their stories.

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It also has an introduction by author Ian Rankin.  “Ian and I met when he had taken time out from writing to concentrate on some charitable work.  He is very generous with his time and one of the events he put together was a Crime Writers Dinner  – we got to spend a day in my kitchen planning the menu and filmed that and part of the dinner – it’s on YouTube – and have become friends.  I did not want another chef writing the foreward, so I was delighted when Ian agreed to do so”. 

We next asked about his visits to Boston representing Seafood Scotland, attending the Seafood Expo North America. “It is great fun, a great place to showcase Scottish seafood and exciting for the chef who travelled with me – an important part of their culinary education and is an intense couple of days doing shows and demonstrations that showcase Scottish Scallops, Salmon and Mackerel”.

It’s different to appearing on television we imagined? We wonder how Mark felt about the makeup “well it stops your face shining…”

“Oh yes, television is important, it raises your profile on programmes like Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen. It also shows customers what you can do so they feel confident that they are going to have a great meal if they visit your restaurant.  Television has changed a great deal – I remember not understanding Keith Floyd at all – shouting at his cameraman – talking about seasonal food.  But he was really ahead of his time focusing on the seasonality of produce”

Now Mark – a more serious question – what’s your secret to the perfect poached egg!

“My favourite breakfast is Eggs Benedict – and that is all about the egg. The eggs must be fresh – no amount of swirling, deep pan, shallow pan, more or less vinegar will make any difference unless you are using the freshest eggs you can get”  How about sous vide eggs? “Aahh, now that makes a different product, it changes the texture of the yoke altogether”.

One of Mark’s Favourite Tables from our last interview was Brasserie Chavot which sadly closed so we asked Mark did he have some new favourite tables to share with us? But, before we asked about place he has been to we asked if he could share his thoughts about restaurant life in Edinburgh?  “It has come a very long way, offering everything from a £10 burger to a Michelin Star experience. A good outcome of this growth is that the new generation of young chefs can stay in the area and learn, try new things.  There is a restaurant called Aizle – where the chef patron Stuart has no menu, which is a very brave thing to do, and he creates the menu from daily available ingredients and put dishes on the chalkboard.  It is really taking off and shows the diversity of what is now on offer”

Back to your favourite tables….

“Well, I was in Singapore for the Queen’s 90th Banquet last year and one of the chefs took me to a restaurant known as ‘no-sign board‘ because there was no money left to create one when they first opened! It is one of those places you would walk past but the food and service was incredible and I visited several times, everyone sitting outdoors.  It has grown and grown because of the quality of the food and still does not have a sign!”

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In a complete contrast, Fera at Claridges, is my other favourite table.  One of the most amazing rooms with phenomenal food, it is a stunning combination.  Also, it has one of the most incredible kitchens I have ever seen!

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Mark, as always, it was great to catch up with you

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A Chefs Table feature on the family run Haywards

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Jahdre Hayward_FT

Jahdre Hayward was born in Bermuda, at 15 he moved to the United States to live with his aunt and uncle while he studied culinary arts in Tampa Florida. When his studies were complete he moved to the UK and gained a commis job at The Savoy Hotel, London under Anton Edelmann, where he progressed quickly up the rankings to Chef de Partie. Jahdre`s employment in London and the Home Counties also includes Hanbury Manor, Rules Restaurant, the Oxo Tower, Novelli in the City and The Ritz.

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Amanda Hayward was born and brought up in Essex and lived in the family owned traditional 17th century free house the Forest Gate Inn which is situated on the outskirts of Epping Forest and the charming market town of Epping.  Amanda knew from an early age she was interested in cooking and after leaving school she took a place at Westminster College and trained to be a chef. She has gained experience in many fine restaurants in London and abroad including Simpsons on the Strand, London Capital Club, and then started her own catering company.

Jahdre met Amanda when they both worked at The London Capital Club. They travelled to Australia in 2003 and Jahdre worked briefly at Guillaume at Bennelong, Sydney Opera House whilst experiencing life in Australia. They returned to London for 3 years before migrating to Australia and settling in Melbourne. Jahdre worked as a sous chef at The National Gallery then moved on to become head chef at the Melbourne Wine Room followed by The Millswyn Restaurant. Amanda whilst in Melbourne went from being a chef to a waiter and after working at Grossi Florentino`s and Maze by Gordon Ramsey went on to work at Circa, The Prince and became assistant restaurant manager of the two hat restaurant.

After five and a half years in Melbourne and gaining Australian citizenship, Jahdre and Amanda decided to return to the UK to oversee the development of Haywards in the grounds of the family owned pub the Forest Gate Inn.

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The restaurant was converted from an old coach house, stable and skittle alley. Amanda and Jahdre oversaw the whole process to create their dream restaurant, sympathetically restoring the buildings and retaining many original features. Haywards opened in May 2013 and has gone from strength to strength and both Amanda and Jahdre are passionate about continuous development and progression for the business. The Haywards kitchen garden is thriving and the restaurant has been working with a local bee keeper to keep some bee colonies and produce their own honey.

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With Jadhre’s global background, our questions were many.  Here are some of them:

Influences – now and then?

“My grandmother, with her love of food and family, was really inspiring and I used to love to watch her in the kitchen.  The chef who has really influenced me is Brett Graham at The Ledbury.  His passion for the industry and for sourcing quality local produce is something that we have adopted at Haywards.  He is also passionate about his customers and our many conversations have influenced decisions we have made”

What are your views on the difference between Australian and British restaurant industries? 

“There are quite a lot of differences between restaurants and food styles.  All are positive differences, and in terms of gaining experience and developing my career, I feel very privileged to have worked in many great restaurants in both locations.   Australian restaurants are often slightly Asian inflenced and there are many different products available and not so much emphasis on the seasons. Due to the warmer climates across the country there is more produce available year round.  There is also access to beautiful and more unusual fresh fish such as snapper, barramundi (similar to sea bass and delicious!) and yabbies, which I love.  However, here in the UK I really enjoy the fact that our native produce is seasonal and we can change our menus accordingly.  We also have fantastic, quality British produce and our scallops are amazing!”

If you were not a chef – where would you be now? 

“My career path was destined to been an aircraft mechanic but whilst studying, I took a part time job in a kitchen and my fate was sealed!”

Are there restaurants you would like to go to? 

“If I am lucky enough to travel to the Far East again, I would love to dine at Sukiabashi Jiro, a three Michelin starred sushi restaurant in Japan.  Another three Michelin starred restaurant is Michel Bras in France which is also high on my list.

Haywards Honey – what is your favourite honey dish? 

“We have a beautiful dish on our menu described as Honey, Dill, Almond.  It is a honey parfait garnished with honeycomb, bee pollen and dill ice cream”

A chef to work with – past or present? 

“I would love to work alongside Michael Caines.  I have dined at Gidleigh Park twice and really admire him for his determination, drive and skill” I saw that his latest venue Lympstone Manor is featured on favourite tables so I will be booking dinner there soon.

Finally – where are your favourite tables? 

One of my favourite tables has to be The Ledbury in Notting Hill.  Always an amazing experience and I love everything about this restaurant.

I also think The Artichoke in Amersham is a fantastic restaurant.   They are gaining a lot of recognition but deserve more!

Finally, I celebrated my birthday just before Christmas at the Bildeston Crown in Suffolk.  We had a wonderful stay and a really great meal in their restaurant so I am sure that they will go on to achieve great things.