In a question and answer session, 40 students on the college’s professional cookery, food and beverage service, and hospitality supervision and leadership courses were able to ask the chef about the restaurant business.
Tredwells chef-patron Chantelle Nicholson, tells The Caterer why she is getting involved in a new initiative called Life Kitchen which helps people living with cancer and their families
Tell us more about Life Kitchen and its founder Ryan Riley. How did you find out about the project?
Life Kitchen will bring free cookery classes to cancer patients undertaking treatment, as well as those people that are caring for them. I found out about the cause via a mutual friend and generally wonderful person, Hugh Wright, who tweeted about it. I thought it sounded so interesting, and wanted to see how I could help, so I sent a message to Ryan, and the rest is history.
You are an incredibly busy lady, and you’ve taken on a role at Life Kitchen as food director. What will that involve?
It is still very much in its infancy, so we are conducting research while we go through the initial funding, to see what exactly people want and need to support them through this difficult time. I envisage creating and overseeing what we eventually offer, but hopefully with a lot of other chefs and food lovers coming on board to teach the classes also.
What will you be teaching at the classes?
The aim is to focus on flavour, taste and nutrition. I will be teaching too, but I am hoping we will expand rather rapidly so we will need the involvement and support of others.
What are the challenges when cooking for people undergoing cancer treatments?
Loss of appetite is one I hear most often, as well as constant metallic tastes and certain foods both smelling and tasting unpleasant. In order to get the nutrients in to the body, I intend to come up with ways to help overcome these challenges.
You are hosting and cooking at a charity dinner in aid of Life Kitchen. Tell us more about the event and who will be joining you at the stoves?
Yes, it is very exciting. It takes place on Sunday 25 June. My wonderful friends, Lisa Allen, Anna Hansen and Ravinder Bhogal have all come on board, as well as the wonderful ACE Hotel, so it is going to be an awesome evening to raise as much money as we can.
How can you buy tickets?
We are releasing the tickets early May, follow us on twitter @lifekitchen to stay tuned for updates!
Chefs taking part include: Cyrus Todiwala from Café Spice Namaste in London; Adam Smith from Coworth Park in Ascot; Hayden Groves from BaxterStorey in London; Russell Bateman from Colette’s at the Grove in Hertfordshire; and Mark Poynton from Alimentum in Cambridge.
The students will assist the chefs in making a seven course menu – offering menu suggestions, preparing ingredients, cooking the dishes and serving guests.
This summer, Marlow’s very own celebrity chef Tom Kerridge is launching a special three-day event; a laid-back celebration of the very best food, drink and music the country has to offer, taking place at the Thames-side location of Higginson Park in Marlow.
Tom Kerridge presents Pub in the Park will offer over 12,000 visitors the opportunity to experience a taste of his pubs, The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, in a unique pop-up scenario, alongside other award-winning pubs from across the UK.
Kerridge will be creating a variety of his signature dishes, giving visitors the chance to purchase taster-sized portions of the food that makes The Hand & Flowers the only pub in the UK to have been awarded two Michelin stars.
A selection of other award-winning pubs will complete this festival and the full line-up will be revealed soon.
Along with trying their food, the star-stuffed line up of chefs will be hosting live cooking demonstrations allowing visitors to get up close and learn some of their tricks of the trade. There will also be giant pub games and riverside fun, with drinks provided by local heroes Rebellion Beer and Harrow & Hope wine.
Kerridge is also finalising a cracking musical line-up with headline UK talents and some of his favourite bands.
“What a fantastic opportunity to have a family and friends party with Pub in the Park. This is going to be a great celebration of everything that the brilliant British pub stands for – food, drink, music and fun; all in the amazing setting of Higginson Park in Marlow, right next to the River Thames, and all served up by a supporting cast of great chefs, restaurants, bands, pubs and breweries,” says Kerridge.
Taking place 19 – 21 May 2017, Pub in the Park is set to excite locals and visitors alike, further securing Marlow’s place as a must-visit on the foodie map!
Tickets go on sale at the end of February with a special pre-sale for anyone registered on the event website - www.pubintheparkuk.com
Earlier this week, chef Pierre Koffmann visited Westminster Kingsway College with his protégé and college graduate Ben Murphy to spend time with students and staff as part of celebrations of 50 years as a chef.
Koffmann and Murphy also took part in a Q and A with the students. Questions by Jose Souto.
What do you look for in a chef?
PK: Someone that is hard working with a good character and someone with passion – passion is the most important. They have to work hard and it’s not easy if you want to be a good chef. I have got easier to work for though!
Who did you look up to when you were a young chef?
PK: I never really went to restaurants as a young chef, and mostly learnt from reading recipe books. But it is important to get out to restaurants and taste – but if you can’t afford to do that, buy books and practice.
Ben what inspired you about being at Koffmann’s when you first went there from Westminster Kingsway?
BM: College taught me the basics and with Chef Koffmann I was able to develop the basic recipes I’d learnt. I was able to add a little bit more sauce or a slightly different garnish, it was a bit more advanced but not too complex at first.
What do you think about Fusion cooking?
PK: It’s great, of course, but you should always learn classic French to start. Learn the technique and then start to adapt.
BM: Yes, learn the basic French techniques and then develop them into your own style. I tweak them to my own recipe.
Would you advise young chefs to go into a restaurant like Koffman’s after leaving college, was it good to go in at the deep end?
BM: Yes, absolutely. I don’t think I could have gone in any deeper! Getting sent to France as well when I didn’t speak a word of French, it was such a good way to learn the language. Working in France meant I was completely out of my comfort zone.
PK: It can be difficult if you go into a kitchen without knowing the local language, and You might have a shitty time for the first three months. But as a young chef you can move a lot, work in different countries but working as a chef means you can go anywhere in the world.
Travel a lot when you are young, before you fall in love and meet your wife or husband and have kids, because it can get boring as you have to stay in one place!
Are the foundations we are teaching chefs here [at WKC] the right ones to move on into the professional kitchen?
PK: Yes, I think so. The facilities here are very impressive and the students look engaged and well prepared. You cannot learn everything at college but then you cannot learn everything in a restaurant. Move around and learn as much as you can.
Ben, what difference did it make having a Westminter team with you at The Woodford?
BM: It was great to have people with me who I’d worked with at college, it gave me extra confidence knowing that we had all been trained in the same way. We were a young team too so we understood each other.
I’ve enjoyed everywhere I’ve worked. The South of France was difficult as I was so young, but I knew that once I’d done that I could do anything.
Ben, how did you find the transition from college to industry?
BM: I’d done quite a lot of work experience while still at college, but you have to have a completely different mind-set. It’s full-time, and you can’t watch the clock. It’s not healthy.
Are you happiest when you’re at work?
BM: Yes, definitely. I like when we start the service, but then there’s nothing better than finishing a service.
PK: Yes of course, that’s why I’m still doing it at my age! It’s very exciting, you’ve got to be passionate about it and it’s a fantastic job and every day you can do something different.
Is catering still perceived as a career not to get into?
PK: It used to be difficult to find an English person as a chef or a waiter, but there are so many successful chefs from the UK now, and they have been inspired by the chefs on the TV, which I still find a bit strange as you cannot taste this food. But it has changed a lot here. Most of the best chefs are from the UK now.
What’s the main characteristic you need to be a chef or front of house in this industry?
BM: Be passionate, don’t look at the clock and enjoy it!
How old were you when you started in the industry
PK: I was 14, back then we finished school at that age. I was always told ‘you could do better, you could do better, and then one day I was told ‘you could do better somewhere else….’ I came from a small town and 14 was too young to find a job so cookery school was a good option for me. I studied until 17, I first worked in Strasbourg.
I first came to the UK in 1970 and the food was terrible, and 46 years later I’m still here. When I was 17, it was prawn cocktails and avocado and all those things, nothing very interesting.
And Pigs Trotters…
PK: When I opened my first restaurant in 1977 I wanted to do something different. There was no point doing steak, everyone was doing steak.
When I started to cook the pig’s trotter, it became one of the best 10 dishes in the world. Six years ago I did them as part of a pop-up on top of Selfridges and it was supposed to be for one week and it last two months. We cooked 3,200 pig’s trotters.
How has the changing equipment in a kitchen help a chef, is it a good thing?
PK: I think a lot of them are essential, we could not do the same process a blender does for example. But as for the bags [sous vide] I’m not for it, and Ben knows that.Young chefs should be banned from using this until they have learnt the basics.
They should learn how to cook a piece of meat the traditional way without these bags! Any donkey can do that. When you have more experience you can experiment.
It’s like chefs who use timers, don’t do that, touch it with your finger, learn how the texture changes.
Some equipment can de-skill chefs if they are used too much.
In France they use them a lot. Especially in the smaller more remote restaurants, even they vegetables are put in sous vide.
What were the challenges of opening your first restaurant and do you have any tips?
PK: I never had any problems, because when you are young you are slightly stupid! A little crazy, and you don’t think about problems. It was successful – I had customers and some money. You’ve got to be adventurous and take chances, buy a small place, don’t pay too much rent, avoid places like Mayfair or Chelsea.
What makes your food different?
PK: Nothing. Just cook the food you like to eat.
What are you views on failure?
PK: Sometimes it can be a positive, you need to analyse it and try not to do it again. What you need for a successful restaurant are three things and you need all three: good food, good service and a good ambience. And again cook the food you like to eat and do not copy other people.
Is it OK to take part in competitions as a young chef as part of a brigade
PK: Yes, it’s OK to do this. It has to be their own work with just input from the head chef. It doesn’t affect the team if you have the support of your chef.
BM: Competitions helped me because it benchmarked me against industry chefs as well as being able to benchmark myself against chefs at Koffmann’s.
What is one of your most memorable dining experiences?
PK: If I was to die tomorrow I would want my last meal to be Bouillabaisse, with the fresh ingredients, that’s my favourite dish, but it depends on the occasion.
BM: It’s about comfort food, good food done properly.
Do chefs stop taking risks when they achieve a Michelin star?
PK: I guess it depends on the capacity of cooking, if you have time you can practice something new every day – it’s nothing to do with stars. You need to try and keep life interesting if you can, to keep enjoying it.
What was it like earning your first Michelin star?
PK: It was nice, I didn’t work for it – it just happened. The next year I got a second star and I joked and said: “next year I will get my third” – it took me five more years to get my third star. I remember the person from Michelin telling me that I’d won my third star and my reaction was”‘thank you”. I should have had a glass of champagne or something! But, it’s better to have a full restaurant than to have a Michelin star and be empty.
Are chefs becoming head chefs too quickly?
PK: Yes, of course. They come to us as commis and six months later they want to be a chef de partie and then in two years a head chef. It doesn’t always work this way. I remember asking someone who wanted to be a sous chef: “OK, can you make a béarnaise?” and he said, “What’s a béarnaise?”
Chefs are progressing more quickly in restaurants – you can if you keep your eyes open, look left and right in the kitchen, learn from your colleagues and travel a lot, keep awake.
Do we put too much emphasis on Michelin stars?
PK: I think it’s very nice for young chefs to win Michelin stars but it’s not always a route to success. It’s nothing more than a piece of paper and sometimes these restaurants can fail. But for young chefs to be part of that red book is a dream.
Our second Chef Eats Out event, in partnership with Udale Speciality Foods, will take place at Aiden Byrne’s Manchester House on 8 November. Book your place now!
The Caterer and Udale Speciality Foods have joined forces to host our next Chef Eats Out event at Manchester House on 8 November, where you can have the chance to sample Byrne’s brilliant food among fellow chefs.
The event – for 65 lucky diners – will begin at 12 (noon) and lunch will be followed by a tour of the kitchen. The event is expected to finish at 3pm.
A Taste of Manchester House menu
• Sour dough with roasted chicken butter
• Squid ink rice cracker, cured lemon sole, pickled chipiron squid and smoked red pepper jelly
• Baked potato soup, crisp chicken skin, foie gras ballotine and pink fir apples
• Scallop cured with sushi vinegar, green peppercorns, salted anchovies and pickled turnip
• Squab pigeon with gingerbread, cherries and foie gras
• Grilled turbot with Savoy cabbage, Garstang white and confit cepe
• Braised Bellota pigs cheeks, fermented pear and burnt onion
• Salt aged Goosnargh duck with blackberries, juniper and gin
• Olive oil sorbet, fig jam and goats cheese mousse
• Homemade 70% bitter chocolate
Manchester House would like to thank Udale Speciality Foods and Wellocks for their support of the event.
Executive head chef of Jason Atherton’s Social Wine & Tapas, Frankie Van Loo, will be hosting a collaborative dinner with head chef of The Palomar, Tomer Amedi on Tuesday 13 September.
With a shared passion for Spanish cuisine, the chefs have curated a menu influenced by the rich cultures of the Iberian Peninsula, combined with the Middle-Eastern influences fundamental to The Palomar’s pioneering approach to cooking.
Second in the series of Social Wine & Tapas’ collaborative dinners and available for one night only, the six-course menu will offer guests the opportunity to experience a selection of dishes chosen by the two chefs to showcase the essence of each restaurant’s style of cooking, while working together harmoniously to deliver a unique experience for the diner.
To begin, guests will enjoy snacks such as Frankie Van Loo’s piquillo pepper croquette with saffron and Tomer Amedi’s chickpeas, octopus and amba, before sampling dishes including Social Wine & Tapas’s Cumbrian Herdwick lamb rack with spiced aubergine, and polenta with wild mushrooms, truffle and yolk from The Palomar.
For dessert, the menu will feature classic Crema Catalana served with Frankie’s twist of crystallised pistachio, followed by stilton cheesecake, apricot, chilli and pumpkin seeds served by Tomer.
Inspired by the recent interest in Middle Eastern wines, Social Wine & Tapas’ Executive Sommelier, Laure Patry, has created a dynamic list of wines from the region to enhance both the flavour profile of each dish and the experience for each guest.
Priced at £55 per person, the dinner is available to book between 6:30pm and 9:00pm. Bookings can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renowned chef and writer Ronald Kinton will be the guest speaker at a charity luncheon for Hospitality Action on 27 October at the four-AA-star Langham Hotel in Eastbourne, East Sussex.Over 50 years ago, Kinton, alongside Victor Ceserani and David Foskett, wrote the textbooks that formed the basis of chef education in the UK.
Practical Cookery, The Theory of Catering, Kitchen & Larderwork, Food Preparation & Cooking, and Patisserie & Confectionary are still referred to today as indispensable ‘bibles’ of the trade.
Only in recent years, Kinton’s books have been replaced by textbooks written by John Campbell, David Foskett and Victor Ceserani.
Proprietor Neil Kirby said: “My head chef, Michael Titherington, has a 1965 edition of Practical Cookery in the hotel kitchen and was overawed when Ronald Kinton visited the Langham recently. Michael quickly asked him to sign the book for him!
“As so many people within the industry know Ronald Kinton’s books, I hope that a lot of chefs will come to the lunch as it will be a rare opportunity to meet him. He is also working closely with Michael on the menu for the day, so I know there will be some fabulous food and wines being served.”
Hospitality Action provides education and support for past and present hospitality workers who are in need.
The lunch costs £32 per person. Bookings can be made by calling 01323 731451 or email email@example.com