One of the perks of working in hospitality is being fed at work. Well, sometimes. Most of the time, you’ll end up with a sandwich or leftover ingredients made in a mushy, boring, usually cold pasta. When you’re being fed like the chef cares, you know you are lucky. My first staff meal cooked by Jamie was this pasta that I had to take a picture of like I was in a posh restaurant.
Jamie will cook with the same care for staff and guests. Simple food, cooked from scratch, seasoned just right, in a portion that will get you through the day. Upselling his food never feels like an endeavour but more like whispering a tip to a friend – “You need to try his food!”
The Hotel is in a lovely Georgian House with the tiniest kitchen ever, so it’s always been a wonder how he manages to craft those lovely breakfasts and dinners in 6 square meter kitchen.
So I asked him some questions, in hope to find the secret for his understated food simplicity.
Me: What’s your “can’t live without” spices?
Jamie: Obviously it depends on what I’m making, but my most used / over used spice would be sweet smoked paprika.
Any form of shellfish cooked in garlic butter, so I would say lobster or langoustines. And potted shrimps with toast to start.
Most unexpected meal?
When my girlfriend cooks something “healthy” and it turns out to be very nice. Very unexpected.
What are the traits necessary to survive and thrive in a kitchen?
To have the state of mind that you get it done despite the circumstances.
The ability to cowboy things to work for you, be it food or an electrical appliance.
Maximum ingredients / does it matter or does it overcomplicate food?
If you read a recipe for say a slow cooked casserole and it has 1 clove of garlic in it, will you taste it? No. So if you want to taste an ingredient, put enough of it or don’t put it in at all!
In your experience as a chef, how did the kitchen as an environment change?
Less cream is used.
Kitchens are less macho. ie “Look how many hours I can work”, “I can pick up this tray from the oven with my bare hands” or “Look how many beers I can drink”.
Kitchens seem to be a lot less aggressive or it could be that I have been lucky where I have worked recently.
Dream ingredients? / Dream food to cook?
Fresh fish and shellfish.
A loin of tiger stuffed inside an elephant trunk. (he says laughing…)
What convinced you to stay a chef?
Books by Anthony Bourdain.
Fear of working in a customer facing role!
British food culture / What is British traditional cuisine?
British food culture is great as we have food from all over the world.
“Traditional” British cuisine I think shines in the colder months. It’s warming food you want to eat.
How does industrialised food translate to flavour?
An industrialised farm is probably making better tomatoes than you are in your garden, yet your garden tomatoes taste better. I believe the main difference between the two is that the big farms tomatoes have spent two days in a lorry, two days in a warehouse and then two days in your fridge before being eaten. Your garden tomatoes are most likely picked and eaten within hours. The same goes for any vegetable, apart from frozen peas. They are the dudes of the vegetable world!
When it comes to meat, buy the best you can afford. That doesn’t mean buying a fillet over a rump steak.
What’s your take on processed food?
Everything has its place, for me a stop at a service station is not complete without a burger k*ng!
Eat what you like but not every day. I like raggae but I don’t listen to it all the time.
Secret recipe or kitchen hack?
Cling film can be used to make string.
Life work balance?
Very important, get a hobby too. A rested chef will always make better food.
Childhood favourite food? How much of that accounts for what you taste / cook?
Lasagne / sweets.
I still love lasagne and sweets.
Pappardelle with slow cooked beef ragu made with beef shin, red wine and tomatoes. I’m just a slightly more refined version of the child me.
Bourdain talks about this. What is demi-glace?
Stock usually veal of beef that has been reduced for many hours until thick and almost syrup like. Very rich and salty and used as a base for sauces or for glazing meat?
What would you bring back from when you started as a chef?
The price of ingredients.
My more youthful legs.
Modified boy racer cars.
What is flavour?
Sounds like a question for Brian Cox – probably not the actor thought.
What are your routines in the kitchen?
Clean before, clean during and clean after.
Favourite meat? Favourite vegetable? Ingredient? ( have I asked that question before? I’m sure I did.)
Meat – pork closely followed by lamb.
Veg – courgette.
Ingredient – onions – most things start with onions.
What’s your thinking behind a menu? Do dishes communicate – like the taste of the starter that lingers in the main?
Not at all! Writing a menu for me involves:
Looking what is in season.
Do I like to eat it?
Can I prepare it in a modest seized kitchen?
Will other people like to eat it?
How do you feel about your small kitchen? Does size matter?
I like the cupboard kitchen. It has treated me well! Less to clean! The small size also makes you think about things more and forces you to keep it clean and plan ahead more.
How does music contribute to making food?
To me a lot. It keeps me sane. Chopping endless onions is better with some hip hop or techno. And now to sound like a pr*ck. Making music and food is pretty much the same – learn your scales and chords and then the rest will make sense – learn how to make a risotto, omelette plus cook a steak properly, the most complicated dish in the world revolves around these skills.
Jamie cooks dinners at 24 Royal Terrace once a month.
November dates are 2nd-3rd of November, from 6 – 8:30PM and you’ll be in for a treat:
Duck Rillettes, Slow Braised Beef Shoulder, Clams, Red Wine Poached Pear to name just some.
Give us a call if you’re feeling hungry after reading this.