Head Chef – Royal Shakespeare Company
Why did you decide to become a chef – what inspired you?
I was always really big on art from an early age and very fortunate to be able to draw and paint at a high level. I progressed to college to study art and photography however I quickly felt this wasn’t the path I intended to follow.
I decided to become a chef and dedicate my time to learning within the culinary world in the hope to express my passion in a completely different way.
I quickly fell in love with cooking and the use of seasonal, colourful ingredients. This became an obsession of mine. Over the years of exploring different varieties of ingredients and building flavour profiles, I have learned to respect and love cooking for many different reasons.
True inspiration comes from the ingredients we use and the origins of where they come from.
What is your favourite cuisine?
I would say my favourite cuisine is classic French. The building blocks of professional cookery and the endless techniques to extract the fullest of flavours even from the simplest of ingredients.
What is your personal signature dish?
My signature dish is something of a simple dish that isn’t technical to deliver and isn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste.
I love beetroot! Beetroot is a wonderful ingredient when treated with respect. I designed a dish to hit the umami sweet spot.
The dish is simply roasted, pickled violet and candied beetroot, charred pink grapefruit, figs, goat’s curd, hazelnuts, mizuna, and balsamic borettane onions.
When eating this dish, you are expected to experience sweet, sour, bitter, salty, creamy, earthy, nutty and peppery notes throughout.
Where did you train?
I have been asked this question a million times as a chef. It is a question I can never answer without feeling passionate about it.
I did not train as a chef at college but instead, I dedicated the last 17 years of my life to working closely with expert chefs, devoting my time to understanding the principles of cooking, the origins of ingredients and the disciplines of the professional industry.
I’m a self-taught chef that has strived for progression, studied for knowledge and still working on improving my craftsmanship every single day. Although I did not train commercially to become a chef, I have trained through mentoring, hard work and determination. The training can never be completed as there are new techniques and new methods being developed every day.
Learning is essential within the culinary industry and striving to learn something new every day is what keeps your passion strong and the fire in your belly burning. There’s a whole world out there but there’s not enough time in the world to master it all.
What influences your menu?
The passion and diverse ethnic backgrounds of my team have a huge impact on what influences my menus. It’s fantastic to listen to your team and use refined recipes from different cultures to inspire innovative dishes from their roots.
Beetroot! It’s a super versatile root vegetable that can be used in endless ways to create earthy and stunning plates of food both on the pallet and on the plate.
Using beets to pickle, roast, press, roll and consommé are just a few fantastic ways to enhance or extract the flavours to their fullest.
From the depth of colour to the sharpest, most vibrant colours, beets have a natural beauty that can be striking when used correctly.
Your favourite season to cook in?
My favourite season to cook in has to be autumn through spring. That nostalgia of cooking up winter warmers, and comforting and wholesome dishes is by far the most exciting for me.
The autumn offers a wide variety of deep-coloured, hearty and robust-flavoured fruits and vegetables. When applying the correct techniques and caramelisation of natural sugars, some of the most delicious food can be created within the autumn and winter seasons.
What’s the next ‘big thing’ in cooking?
The next big thing in cooking I believe is getting back to the old way of cooking – fire pits, hot stones and BBQ.
It’s hugely on trend and will grow in the coming years. Whilst simplistic at a glance, these techniques are by far simple and require vast amounts of skill and craftsmanship. They are some of the best ways to cook and are best cooking low and slow for a long period of time.
This gives amazing results from using controlled measures of cooking with coals or stones, smoking, caramelising and glazing to keep in all that moisture whilst breaking down the fibres. Having the time to render fat that then scorches on the elements being used for cooking and delivering the most incredible, smokey flavours.
What’s your personal go-to dish when short of time?
My personal go-to dish would be something humble, which takes me back to being a child and growing up with my Nana’s love for food and love for feeding!
The humble Sunday roast with beef fat, sugary spuds (in those days they always used sugary spuds, not floury spuds), home-made Yorkshire puddings and lashings of Nana’s gravy.
This is a very common dish that brings back childhood memories of arguing around the table, stuffing your face until you can’t possibly eat the sherry trifle and then spending the rest of the day on the sofa with the worst food coma you can possibly think of.
Nana always knew how to do it right when it came to Sunday lunch! Over the years, being a chef has taught me to refine the humble Sunday roast whilst still respecting the traditional ways of cooking. Crispy marmite potatoes (using a floury potato), sous vide dry aged striploin and caramelised root vegetables are a few tricks of the trade to ensure a perfect roast every time as long as the correct variety of ingredients is being used.
You have your idol coming to dinner at your home, what do you serve?
Well, it’s time to bring out the big guns! My go-to dish to impress has to be again, something pretty humble, hearty but technical. It’s the beef wellington with a truffle pomme puree, charred spring greens and jus.
It’s not every day you get to showcase your skills as a chef and make a wholesome beef wellington. Although simple looking, the technicality in this dish is all in the preparation, temperature of the made product and cooking.
Any chef that has true skill and knowledge will tell you how easy this dish is to get wrong.
Is there anything you hate and/or won’t eat – dish or ingredient?
Jellied eels! I just don’t get it and despise the texture and the flavour! It’s a traditional, very old, east London, British classic that unfortunately does absolutely nothing for me!
Is there a recipe you could share with us?
Roasted, pickled violet and candied beetroot, charred pink grapefruit, figs, goat’s curd, hazelnuts, mizuna, and balsamic borettane onions.
Roasted, pickled violet and candied beetroot, charred pink grapefruit, figs, goat’s curd, hazelnuts, mizuna, and balsamic borettane onions
- Ruby beetroot x 500g (roasted and skinned)
- Candied beetroot x 500g 9roasted and skinned)
- Pink grapefruit x 1 (segmented)
- Black figs x 1
- Goats curd x 50g
- Lemon x 0.5 (zested)
- Hazelnuts x 30g (roasted and skinned)
- Mizuna x 10g
- Borettane onions x 80g
- Bay leaves x 1
- Balsamic vinegar 100ml
- Caster sugar x 200g
- White wine vinegar x 100ml
- Dehydrated beetroot powder x 1 tsp
- Demerara sugar x 20g
- Olive oil x 50ml
- Star anise x 1
- Coves x 2
- Tendril pea shoots x 10g
- Placed the beetroot in a gastronome, drizzle with the olive oil and roast at 160 degrees for 1 to 1.5 hours. Once tender, leave to cool and then peel the skin using your fingers. The skin should break away easily exposing the flesh of the beetroot. Once peeled, rinse and pat dry.
- Slice the candied beetroot thinly using a mandolin, aim for 2mm thick and set aside. And dice the ruby beetroot into 1cm dices. In a separate pan, place 100g grams of caster sugar in a pan along with 100ml of white wine vinegar, add 2 cloves and 1 star anise. Bring to a boil and reduce by 20%. Set aside and leave to cool. Once room temperature, split the pickling liquor into two, add the candied beet to one of the halves of the liquor and the ruby beetroot to the other. Vac pack lightly and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
- In a second pan, add the balsamic vinegar, remaining caster sugar and bay leaves then bring to a simmer. Reduce by 20% and add the borettane onions to the liquor whilst hot. Cling film and set aside. Once cooled, vac pack lightly and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Place the goat’s curd in a bowl and add the grated lemon zest, ensure to fold the lemon zest through the goat’s curd to ensure a firm texture is held.
- Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 160 degrees for 10 minutes and peel the skin exposing the hazelnut. Lightly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar and season with salt.
- When ready to plate, blow torch the pink grapefruit ensuring even scorch. Slice the fig half and dip both halves in demerara sugar. Glaze the sugar using a blow torch until it’s completely caramelised.
- Spread the candied beetroot evenly in a cylindrical form on the plate and roche a spoon of the goat’s curd mixture in the centre.
- Place the diced ruby beetroot around the candied beetroot in a uniform order. Next place the fig halves on opposite sides of the dish and the scorched pink grapefruit resting along the figs.
- Then add the Boretanne onions alongside the grapefruit. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top and add the mizuna micro herb with the tendril pea shoots.
- Place a round template over the dish (a soup bowl works just fine) and sprinkle the dehydrated beetroot powder around the dish to form a circle with the ingredients enclosed.
- Lastly, use the balsamic reduction to dress the dish and serve.
Royal Shakespeare Company