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Six amazing chefs in Essex

PUBLISHED: 12:55 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:55 24 July 2017

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EXG AUG 17 Food Special

Archant

Essex Life meets six of the county’s top chefs in some of our hottest kitchens to find out what inspires them and learn a trade secret or two

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Scott Parmenter

Head Chef

The Wine Cellar Bar & Bistro, 4 Dukes Street, Chelmsford CM1 1HL

01245 349646

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www.thewinecellarchelmsford.co.uk

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I was possibly eight years old, making butterfly cakes with my mum, when I first realised that cooking was something that made me happy and that I enjoyed doing. Also, being a pirate was not going to be a great career choice.

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Where did you learn your craft?

I attended Braintree College and after graduating I got my first job at The Cumberland Hotel. Although at college you learn your core skills, it’s being in a real kitchen that you learn your art and the way to use those skills.

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What are your key culinary influences?

I did a lot of back-packing about 12 years ago and spent a lot of time in Thailand, which has influenced my cooking style. I enjoy cooking Thai dishes and that’s why you will see many Thai specials on our menu.

What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

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If I had to choose one ingredient to work with, it would be garlic as it lifts any dish.

Can you reveal a kitchen trade secret?

When making guacamole, do not throw the stone away from the avocado, instead submerge it in the guacamole. It prevents oxidisation and the changing colour.

What’s coming up that your customers can look forward to in 2017?

Look out for a choice of new power salads and healthy options. You will also see seasonal produce on our menu and wonderful homemade dishes.

Matthew Hill

Executive Head Chef

The Grill Room at Down Hall Hotel

Hatfield Heath

Matching Road

Bishop’s Stortford

CM22 7AS

01279 731441

www.downhall.co.uk

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

When I was a young boy, watching my dad cooking at home.

Where did you learn your craft?

At The Pink Geranium, a 3 Rosette restaurant in Melbourn, Australia.

Who or what are your key culinary influences?

I would have to say that Raymond Blanc has ben an inspiration in my career.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

Of course you have to create the dishes as a chef, but the best thing is getting to eat the best food in the world.

What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

Right now, I would say courgettes are my favourite ingredient.

Do you have a signature dish?

If so, what is it? I have a recipe for a spring pea soup with chocolate oil.

Can you reveal your best trade secret?

If I did, then they wouldn’t be trade secrets anymore!

Is there anything customers can look forward to at Down Hall in 2017?

We are planning to revamp the restaurant this year, so watch this space.

Robert Pearce

Head chef

Orsett Hall Hotel Restaurant & Spa

Prince Charles Avenue

Orsett

Grays

Essex

RM16 3HS

01375 891402

www.orsetthall.co.uk

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

It was about the age of 10 when I was going to my gran’s annexe at the end of my garden. We never really cooked much stuff, but it always seemed to be with eggs - poached, scrambled, fried, boiled - she always said there’s so much you can use an egg for.

Where did you learn your craft?

While I was at college, I was working in a local pub, picking up as many extra shifts as I could. I would finish college then go to work. My social life suffered, but I just loved cooking!

What are your key culinary influences?

A lot of people would pick famous chefs to answer this question. I feel the people I work with are huge influences on me. Even the ones that are 16 and 17 years old, with flair and passion, it keeps the fire going in me.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

Seeing happy customers is a great feeling, but being around people and sharing ideas, and loving the craft as everyone does, is an added bonus about getting up in the morning.

What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

Has to be what I started with, an egg. I think it’s fascinating how someone first thought, let’s put this in boiling water or lets crack it in simmering water. It gets you thinking how someone made an omelette? Food is endless.

Do you have a signature dish? If so, what is it?

Here at Orsett Hall, our signature dish would be The Garden Carrot Cake, with an edible chocolate flower pot, chocolate crumbs, poached carrots and cinnamon ice cream.

Can you reveal your best trade secret?

When cooking scones, always put a small pot of water in the bottom of the oven to ensure moisture is kept in the oven. This will also help them rise.

Is there anything customers can look forward to in 2017?

We change our menus in the brassiere four times a year, to be able to keep things as local as possible and in season. This also follows in our Café Sartoria and our afternoon teas change monthly. We have also started doing savoury teas recently too, which are going down very well.

Matthew Vickers

Head chef

The Monkey at The Rayleigh Arms

Terling

CM3 2PW

01245233113

themonkeyterling.com

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

From as far back as I can remember my dad was taking me to work with him in various kitchens, but I would say from the age of 14 or 15, I knew.

Where did you learn your craft?

I started with my dad early on, then started in local pub restaurants. I studied professional cookery and patisserie at Colchester Institute and also did a lot of work experience in highly-regarded restaurants, including the Harwood Arms in Fulham, the only 1 star pub in London.

What are your key culinary influences?

I have many influences, including the simplicity and originality of Marco Pierre White. When gastropub’s really took off, it introduced me to Tom Kerridge and Gordon Ramsey.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

Being creative with flavours and presentation for people to enjoy and great job satisfaction.

What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

I have many favourite ingredients, but I would say fresh herbs are great. They can pack loads of flavour into a dish. The one ingredient I use in almost every dish is fresh thyme.

Do you have a signature dish? If so what is it?

I would say my signature dish would be our Sunday roast dinner. Everything on the plate has been sourced locally. It’s simple, traditional and the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Can you reveal your best trade secret?

Knowing your seasonality for produce. Ingredients are obviously at their best when they are in season.

Is there anything costumers can look forward to in 2017?

Being in the heart of an agricultural village, we will have an abundance of game coming through when the season begins. Our forthcoming menus, which change with the seasons, will see plenty of local game as well as east coast fish and beef that is reared in surrounding countryside.

Spencer Hewitt

Head chef & owner

Square 1 Restaurant

15 High Street

Great Dunmow

CM6 1AB

01371 859922

www.square1restaurant.co.uk

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I never really had a huge ambition to become a chef, its just something that happened. I never felt any passion for education; I didn’t struggle, but there was no excitement there for me. I started working in a local hotel at 13 as a kitchen porter and it progressed from there.

Where did you learn your craft?

My first job was at The Cricketers in Clavering. Trevor Oliver worked us hard, almost army style, but this gave me a good work ethic. I think these days school leavers going into the catering profession don’t have it as strict as we did - perhaps all chefs should do six months service with Trevor. It wasn’t until I went to work in London that I started to learn the culinary trade and become a true chef. I worked in small, fine-dining restaurants such as Nicos and The Aubergine, but also large catering events under Anton Mosimann. I really enjoyed the learning experience.

What are your key culinary influences?

Seasonal produce is very important, I try to respect the ingredients and elevate flavours to the next level by carefully pairing with the right components.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

Doing something different everyday, staying creative and making people smile with my food.

What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

Food when it first comes into season – asparagus, wild garlic and British strawberries are all amazing when they are in season.

Do you have a signature dish?

Not really, I get bored doing the same thing, at Square 1 we change the menu everyday

Can you reveal a kitchen trade secret?

Never trust an overweight chef!

Is there anything your customers can look forward to in 2017?

There is always plenty going on at Square 1, such as gin nights and Summer Madness with discounted menus in August. We are always thinking of new ideas and we try to be different.

Andi Walker

Head chef at the pop-up restaurant, Upstairs at the Riverside Inn, open at the Riverside Inn in Chelmsford from Thursday to Sunday until the end of the summer.

www.riversideinnchelmsford.co.uk

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I have always wanted to be a chef from as far back as I can remember. As a child it was all I wanted to be and all I ever talked about

Where did you learn your craft?

I started learning my craft in a local hotel in Essex, where I was lucky enough to meet one of my mentors and now good friend, Stephen Li. But it wasn’t until I worked for Martin Nisbet that my career really started to take off and become serious.

What are your key culinary influences?

My influences come from a variety of different sources including people, books and TV, to name just a few. I believe if your open-minded enough you can find influence anywhere.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

The best thing about being a chef has to be that your job is your passion. It might sound clichéd, but it really is more a way of life than a job.

What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

I don’t particularly have a favourite ingredient to work with as such, but I do love working with fish.

Do you have a signature dish?

My signature dish would have to my duck and broccoli dish with soy and honey. It is a dish I can call my own and I’m really proud of it.

Can you reveal a kitchen trade secret?

There are no secrets in this trade. You get out what you put in, and there is really no hiding.

Is there anything your customers can look forward to in 2017?

Hopefully in 2018 we are looking to move to a permanent site, but the rest of 2017 is just a case of building on the success the pop up has already achieved. Exciting things are coming, I’m sure!

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