At the heart of all his menus are
1 – Flavour
Flavour is without a doubt the most important thing when cooking!
Without flavour there is no point to what we do as chefs. We work long and hard to create dishes that taste amazing and through that taste we create memories and rekindle old ones through nostalgia. Some flavours transport you back to your childhood, while others create new memories that will be with you forever.
2 – Seasonality
Quite simply food tastes better when in season. Sometimes our job as chefs is simply to showcase the amazing produce we have in this country.
Seasonality is so important to chefs. We all have our favourite season for produce, whether it’s the first harvest of asparagus, the first shoot of grouse or the first successful forage for wild garlic.
Chefs view the year differently to the rest of the world, when summer ends and autumn starts while people are upset summer is over and the days are getting darker and colder we are getting excited about the arrival of ceps, root vegetables and the start of the game season.
3 – Health Benefits
Traditional cooking methods using excessive amounts of cream, salt, sugar and butter are becoming a thing of the past. This is just an easy way to make something taste good without much skill.
Most natural ingredients have health benefits and so Ben finely tunes his dishes to ensure nutrients and taste are perfectly balanced.
This is what Ben is truly passionate about and this comes across in his menus with the use of different spices, fresh herbs, citrus juices and other ingredients discovered through his travels.
A little snap-shot of my career highlights
the Royal Cambridge Hotel
My first full time chef position was at the Royal Cambridge Hotel in 2000.
I worked with numerous chefs here who all had a huge impact on me at the start of my career. One of the bar men leant me his copy of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Reading this and listening to the chefs around me, I started to realise the possibilities open to me as a young chef.
Pub le Ski lodge
In 2002 I went to work in The French Alps at an English restaurant called Pub le Ski lodge. People traveled from all three corners of the Alps to eat The Ski lodge burger! It happened to be next door to Michelin star restaurant Le Farcon but at that time I had no idea what a Michelin star was! I have since been back to eat there.
In 2004 I worked at Midsummer House in Cambridge. This was without a doubt the most influential place I have ever worked. Daniel Clifford’s passion and drive made me see what is possible when you truly believe in your vision.
The standards were extraordinary and staff turnover was high, a level I had never seen before and haven’t seen since but the food was exceptional with flavors I had never experienced and the presentation was meticulous. We served around 15 different types of chocolates with coffee including a Tobacco flavored one.
In 2005 I worked for Compass Group where I cooked for the Queen, Margret Thatcher and Tony Blair. This is also when I starting competing and mentoring other chefs for culinary competitions. I won numerous gold awards in the live kitchen at the prestigious Hotelympia and got silver awards in both junior and senior Compass Chef of the Year.
Gordon Ramsey scholarship
In 2006 I was a semi finalist at the Gordon Ramsey scholarship alongside some of the best chefs in the UK. It was a open kitchen in front of a live audience at Birmingham NEC and we only found out what ingredients we were able to use and given a brief the morning of the competition. Luckily I enjoy working under pressure!
In July 2008 I spent a month working at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck on a stage. This was a huge learning curve and amazing to see what is truly possible and the level of detail for the whole dining experience. One of the many jobs I had was to dissect the individual cells from a segment of grapefruit for the licorice poached salmon dish!
In 2015 whilst training BJJ in Thailand, I got the opportunity to consult on a new concept that became infamous The Shack in Phuket. Here I created the menu and recipes, trained kitchen staff and followed up with further menu development.
I still get tagged in pictures when people are travelling in Thailand and come across The Shack!
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