​The art of the bar chef

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. Although the style and service of food have changed fundamentally since restaurants first emerged in Paris in the second half of the 18th century, the names and titles of those who work in restaurants have barely altered. The words chef, commis waiter, sommelier, maître d’ and restaurateur are as recognisable today as they were then. But recently a new role, and with it a new title, has emerged. The name is perforce a hybrid – bar chef…






The modest pleasures of Japanese nimono

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Among the many clouds that have characterised this damp, cool and gloomy British summer there has been at least one professional silver lining: I have come to appreciate and enjoy nimono dishes in Japanese restaurants. And I have even learnt how to cook some of them at home. Nimono, according to Richard Hosking’s indispensibleDictionary of Japanese Food, translates as ‘simmered food’ and appears at any meal in Japan other than at breakfast. It is a technique that can be used…






Essential Ingredients

Essential Ingredients – 2008 Twenty five years ago, immediately after my restaurant’s book-keeper had reported that we were not trading as profitably as hoped and that we needed to make savings, I sat down with the chef Martin Lam to discuss what we could do. I still remember his response. “I’ll obviously look at everything”, he said, “except what I spend on herbs. For me herbs have the biggest impact on whatever I’m cooking and they are the one ingredient I couldn’t do without.” At a time when many restaurateurs…






The perils of barbeque

The perils of barbeque – 2004 Summer brings with it many distinct pleasures. But along with hay fever comes another object of distaste – the barbecue. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I hate the barbecue, because I actually like the slow cooked, smoky, barbecued food of America’s Mid West and southern states, but I do intensely dislike the coarse, one-dimensional flavours that come with pieces of meat and fish casually thrown on an open fire. To me this just isn’t cooking. Before discussing flavour let me deal…






London’s Chinese cookery school

London’s Chinese cookery school – 2002 In a move intended to cement London’s position as the city for cosmopolitan cooking, to create stronger ties with the city’s Chinese community and to reflect the broad cultural origins of his 20,000 students, Richard Williams, principal of Westminster Kingsway College and Lord Mayor Harvey Marshall formally opened the Chinese Chefs School on the second floor of the college in Vincent Square, Victoria, which boasts TV chef Jamie Oliver amongst its illustrious alumni. The first purpose of the School is to train more chefs…






Cooking tips from top chefs

Cooking tips from top chefs round the world – 2003 Eating in restaurants, at home or in friends’ houses fulfils very distinct objectives and brings very different pleasures. Restaurants can bring excitement, an opportunity to see and to be seen as well as the potential risk of unfriendly service and the inevitability of a bill. Eating in puts more pressure on the hosts, which starts with shopping and ends many hours later with the washing up, but presents the opportunity to offer genuine hospitality, particularly to those travelling and far…






Meilleur Ouvrier de France

Hardest comptetion in the world?, Meilleur Ouvrier de France – 2007 At 11pm on March 14 I witnessed an unlikely scene in the restaurant of one of the oldest hotel and chefs’ schools in France at Thonon-les-Bains on the banks of Lake Geneva. As its young, eager-to please waiters and waitresses stood expectantly round the tables, 34 of France’s top chefs, including Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Ducasse, Jacques Maximin, Régis Marcon, Michel Roth from the Ritz Hotel, Jean Sabine, (chef at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris, one of the capital’s still-great…






The Making of the Pass

The Making of the Pass – 2007 At this time of year even the most professionally designed and well-organised restaurant kitchen begins to take on the cluttered air that characterises any domestic kitchen over the festive season. Quite simply, there are nowhere near enough flat surfaces to cope with the joints of meat, the number of plates or the bowls of food or sauces that are being prepared. Life for even the most meticulous chef now gets messy. The root cause of this is of course the numbers round the…






Tête de veau

Tête de veau – 2007 During the brief interregnum between Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy in Paris, I received a phone call from another French president, Pierre Rival. Rival, who combines a job in new technology in the city’s Town Hall with writing about food for Les Echos and is the author of ‘The Gourmet Shops of Paris’, is however self-appointed and his jurisdiction is much, much smaller. Rival is the unelected President of the Tête de Veau Society. Tête de Veau, or calf’s head, for those who do not know…






Kitchen ware and where to get it

Kitchen ware and where to get it – 2003 Professional chefs differ from their amateur counterparts in many respects but in researching which new set of kitchen pans to buy I came across another major distinction. While we at home cook in our own kitchens, professionals, with the singular exception of the small band of chef/proprietors, cook in other people’s, in the main those of restaurateurs or hoteliers. And this has an enormous impact on the equipment they use because invariably it is bought by others. Chefs will walk into…