Chef knows best

02 June 2014

Chef knows best

1. Tell us a little bit about you – have you always worked in ski chalets? Or have you worked in other industries?

So my career in a nutshell: I started "really" chefing" at the age of 18 when I got the privilege to work at Gidleigh Park, a 2 Michelin starred country house hotel close to my home town in Devon. There I was taken under the wing (so to speak) of a very inspiring one armed chef named Micheal Caines (you may know of him?) where I learnt the backbone of my career.

From there I started to travel hitting every street market there was through Asia exciting my taste buds along the way! Then I settled for a short while on the Mornington Peninsular (just below Melbourne) working at the Port Phillip Estate (winery). Whilst there I also did 1 to 2 days a week working on the vineyard doing everything from the harvest to the pruning to the bottling so that I could gain a greater understanding of the sheer effort that goes into a single bottle of wine!

From there I went onto a modern fine dinning restaurant on the Gold Coast. While there I had an email from the old restaurant manager from Gidleigh who was working in New Zealand at a Relais & Chataux property named Cape Kidnappers, who were looking for some well trained chefs to become part of the team as they had an up coming function weekend with Heston and Thomas Keller. So I jumped at the chance for the next summer season. Winter came about and I headed south for my FIRST SEASON down in good old Queenstown. There I worked for the ski company having fun in a little pizza shack on the mountain, so in the evenings I got a job with a private family-run catering company called Artisan catering which is where I got my first taste of "private cheffing".

2. One of the questions we are always wanting to ask chefs, especially those who work in the mountains…how on earth do you source fish!? Is finding particular ingredients ever been a serious issue?

Good question. Well, when I first started we used to use a company called Fideco as you know being on a ski season you get to meet a lot of great and interesting people! And one of those people is a ski instructor named Adam Steadman whose grandfather started a small company called Chamberlains that focuses on sustainable fishing only using small boats and not huge industrial trawlers. It is sent overnight by cargo to Geneva docks and driven straight up and I have never seen a better fish product up here In the mountains…(even the sushi restaurants are amazed by their product!!)

So with finding particular products that guests specifically request such as wagyu beef, yes it can be a little bit of a headache, especially as when using such premium products the supplier can demand a minimum order. Or we have had instances where we have to use all Kosher foods, so finding the source can be a bit of an adventure. But 9 times out of 10 we always find what we are looking for! But if its day to day products that for some reason aren't in the village due to say the access being cut off by avalanche then that's what adapting to what you have comes into play! Flare and innovation are a must have.

3) What is your signature dish?

Oooh my signature dish? I can’t say I have a specific one as when working in chalets you want to wow the guest with each and every meal from breakfast to dinner, always keeping them excited for what tomorrow’s meal time will bring! Dinner is a big part of the social day; all coming together over a meal to swap stories of the day and share laughs and of course to be excited as to what's going to be placed in front of you to tickle your taste buds! But to give you my fail-safe, 'go-to' dish which I serve guests on their first evening if we've not had our pre-arrival consultation would be: for starter, a salad of lentil's with pomegranate, avocado, green beans, toasted pecan nuts and a pomegranate dressing. Followed by Roast rack of lamb with a Mediterranean couscous salad, nisque garnish and a light tapenade jus. and to top it all off, a hot chocolate fondant (made with the finest Swiss chocolate of course!) (The Oxford Ski Company – Stop it...why are we doing this to ourselves!?)

And my favourite kind of food to prepare is playing with different kinds of pastas (made from scratch) and mousses to fill my ravioli and tortellini with. I love it when my guests ask me to do a challenge evening whereby I have to prepare a meal of some description that I have no previous knowledge and unfamiliar with the ingredients. A mini Masterchef comes to Zermatt!

4. If you HAD to choose another profession, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose another profession? Well, I'm not too sure? Something where you would have to use flare and imagination...writing perhaps? Or something that would allow me to travel, continuing to see different cultures, opening my eyes to see the world for what it is and not perceived to be. But if I ever did change profession cooking will definitely have a special connection with me as it has allowed to do and see so much and meet so many different people from all walks of life; from cooking with hill tribes in Thailand to discussing menu ideas with members of the royal family! It truly is amazing how such a simple thing can captivate even the most novice of cooks because at the end of the day all it really is is a little bit of cooking!