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Richard Bainbridge is the head chef of Morston Hall in Norfolk. Galton Blackiston, the celebrity chef known for his three cookbooks and appearances on Saturday Kitchen, owns Morston Hall. Under Galton’s guidance, Richard has flourished and risen to the challenges of running a Michelin star kitchen.
Richard appreciates the importance of fresh, local produce and combines modern French technique with a genuine respect for the quality of fresh produce Norfolk has to offer. Under the tutorship of Galton, Richard has grown into a truly excellent chef and it is our pleasure to speak to him today.
First and foremost thanks for inviting me in, wonderful to come down and see you. Give us an overview of your day to day role here at Morston Hall.
Essentially my role at Morston is to run the kitchen, and the menus effectively.
So the buck stops with you?
Exactly yes, and I have quite a big say in the rest of the hotel from the way that the restaurant’s run, there's Galton (Blackiston) and Tracy and I'm their right hand man. Yes head chef and a bit more also, I like to think.
Richard how many chefs in the team?
We have, full berth about nine, including Galton, so eight really. At the minute we're running about six, which at this moment is big enough.
How important a factor is seasonality for you?
Seasonality is one of the biggest things about our menu. Our menu changes day to day we work with the seasons each day. We're not like a normal restaurant where they might use a menu for three months or four months, we're literally day to day, from talking to suppliers. So we write the menu in the morning. I start off with a blank piece of paper and I'll start talking to suppliers and building the menu from what they’ve got and whether it’s me going up to Wells ten miles up the road and picking wild flowers out of this woman’s allotment or perhaps picking some fantastic wet garlic then bringing it down and getting it on the menu that evening.
You are very remote here so how do deliveries work? I mean is it very, very localised suppliers or can you buy out of London?
We do buy out of London but since I've been back as head chef for five years now 85% of our menu is sourced within about a 35 mile radius.
Norfolk produce is our main thing we’ll got to East Anglia we’ll go further afield if we have to, for certain things like truffles we will get brought in and we’ll get scallops from Scotland, but everything else is as local as possible. We don’t use…local butter, we don’t use olive oil any more because you drive into work and you go past all these fantastic rapeseed fields which we use, or you go past all these fantastic things and you just want to use it as it’s on your door step.
You've been here five years now how have you and your food style adapted in that time or evolved?
Massively so. Galton’s a fantastic teacher in the fact that I came here…I used to work with him when I was 16 and went off and travelled and worked everywhere and came back…
Just a bit of background I know you did the Waterside.
I was at the Waterside for nearly four years I started off there as a commis, left as junior sous chef, went over to America to work in a place called Seagers in Atlanta Georgia which was a fantastic experience.
Why did you chose there?
Obviously I worked at The Waterside Inn which was classical as classical can be it was me going to university as a chef, I was not clever enough to go to normal university, The Waterside Inn was it for me and from there I basically went through the Relais and Chateaux book picked out 15 places that I liked the look of and I really liked Seagers restaurant because it was traditional background but with really modern twists, and that's really what I wanted to progress to.
So did you write to them directly?
Yeah wrote directly, like I said wrote off 15, got back about six.
Why don’t more people do that now when they’re looking for work?
I don't know, and I don’t understand it, when I first worked here at Morston Hall, when I was 16 I wrote off, some 25 CVs to the Gavroche, The Waterside, all the big restaurants that I loved,I went through the Good Food Guide I think I ended up getting about six job opportunities where I could go off for a day to work or trial that is what you did. Now a lot of young chefs come in and they think within ten minutes they’re going to be Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver.
Why is that? Is it the influence of TV?
Yes completely, I think so. The thing about TV chefs is they’ve done so much good for the industry where ten years ago you said you were a chef people would go, “Brilliant, all right, whatever,” but now you go to a dinner party and you say you’re a chef people can't stop talking to you for the rest of the evening, it’s a nightmare but you've become almost that rock star status with people when you say that you cook for a because of TV chefs
Let’s go back to your food style then. How would you describe your food style today?
I hate the cliché term of modern British.
I know no one likes to pigeonhole but…
Yes it is a cliché to say that we're modern British but it is what it is. We are what we say we are on the tin both Galton and myself are both classically trained so there's influence of French cuisine in there but we try to use the modern technology and the modern ways of cooking and like I said before 85% of local produce so we are modern British essentially.
Give us a dish that's on the menu now currently, recently, that typifies what you’re about and what Morston Hall’s about.
We do this dish where we do poached rabbit loin, locally shot rabbit with camomile roasted carrot, local goat’s cheese, carrot purée and a camomile broth which is like a rabbit consommé infused with camomile and is poured in there and some lovely local wild leaves….that we pick ourselves and wild garlic.
Wow. Who influences you as a chef? Who do you look to now?
Obviously Galton, looking on your website The Staff Canteen just trying to keep current with who is the top 50 in the world is something that you always look to because it’s such a fashionable business now, it didn’t ever used to be so fashionable, now it’s like being a food designer almost you have to keep up with it. Restaurant magazine to see who’s current, who is breaking the waves and try to follow that and also at the same time you’re trying to break your own wave. At the moment everyone’s saying Noma is fantastic, I went there, I was lucky enough to go there for a week, which was unbelievable and then you've got people like Sat Bains back in England, you've got Hibiscus with Claude Bosi they’re doing fantastic things also. But then I also. Of course the Waterside still what they’re doing and the Gavroche, St Johns I'd have to say is probably one of my best restaurants.
So a varied selection I guess, and that's where I like it it’s that my love of the industry is so varied and then I bring it into a melting pot into my own style.
Brilliant last question for you if I may, very, very successful here, great accolades business is going well but what’s the next five years hold in store for you?
I'd like to become a partner at Morston Hall. That would be something I'd be looking for.
I was going to say there comes a point where you’re head chef and there comes a point where you can’t go any further so what do you do in the nicest possible way?
Exactly and I love Morston Hall, through and through because it’s been with me since I was 16 on and off, Galton’s turning 50 this year so there might be a possibility of him wanting to retire but also if not. I love curing my own meats and curing salmon so I'd like to maybe go down that avenue as well and I love the posh restaurant scene and I love Michelin, I've only ever cooked Michelin but the idea of a coffee shop and a little bistro just doing my own thing appeals to me fantastically. So who knows really. I take every day as it comes because cooking to me is my hobby, it’s my passion, it’s my love, so to be able to do my hobby five days a week I can’t ask for more than that so I'm just happy really.
Fantastic well listen thank you so much it’s been great to meet you and thank you very much indeed.
No, thanks ever so much for coming.