Alex Bond says chefs aren't just grunting knobs anymore

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th December 2019

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Alex Bond is the chef and owner of Alchemilla in Nottingham.

We spoke to Alex shortly before Michelin surprised him by giving him a star in person, days before the awards ceremony.

Not to discount his success, the chef said that if he had any advice to give his younger self, it would be to listen more. 

"You're just a f**king knob at 18 aren't you. Although I knew what I wanted to do, I was never one of those driven people, it would have been good to focus."

 

It is fair to say that the chef learned from some of the greats: Jeff Baker at 42 The Calls taught him the value or rigour and organisation; at Anthony's, in Leeds, when kitchens working at a molecular level were few and far between, he learnt a unique way of looking at ingredients. Sat Bains gave him more creative freedom, encouraging him to try new things - which is something he applies at Alchemilla. 

"That's the only way to do it, writing things down is okay but then at some point you've got to then just make it."

Yuzu, pine, Swiss meringue

THE MODERN-DAY CHEF

As for what else he tries to instill in his team, one is a sense of responsibility - which he thinks is more successful than the old-school way of ruling with an iron fist. 

"I know it sounds a bit daft but I just tell them when I'm pissed off, I don't shout at them. I just explain why it's important to me or my business or my pocket or their fellow member of staff or whatever it is, to just allow people to understand what you're saying rather than just calling them a c**t."

"I've worked in kitchens when you don't even know who's getting shouted at anymore, you're just like: 'oh, who's getting bollocked' - it's so often that it's just water off a duck's back."

"When I do it, they all listen and it's like 'oh shit.'"

For Alex, the clamour that surrounded Marco Pierre White's comments about women in the kitchen a few months ago just goes to show that the industry has come a long way.

"Marco Pierre White is an old man. He created pressure, he created f***ing bulls**t for no reason."

"We're not at a time when chefs were chefs because they had nought else to do. I've got intelligent young people in my kitchen who are emotionally aware and can hold an intelligent conversation about current affairs and the education system - it's not just grunting knobs anymore."

"That has an impact on how inclusive kitchens are. Hopefully as more people can see that I think that will draw more women into the industry. I think I totally understand why more women don't want to go into the industry - it takes a very specific type of woman to deal with the old school mentality of a kitchen." 

Pineapple rib tomato, lovage, buttermilk

The difference between inspiration and plagiarism

Another characteristic of modern kitchens - especially in the Nordics, he said, is a willingness to share and learn together, rather than "hoarding recipes" as chefs did in the past.

"There's no use getting worried that people have done something you've done; just let them do what they do and move forwards and put things out to the world. It's good karma isn't it."

"I think that's how it should be, we should have more ability to talk and share. If somebody asks me for a recipe, I'll be like, yeah, I don't give a f**k, at the end of the day it's a recipe, if you want to make it and do something with it, what difference does that make to me."

"Obviously if it's something that's super original and someone just blatantly plagiarises it, that's a different story." 

The last dinner at Alchemilla

The next step for Alex could be a wine bar

21 years after he first stepped into a kitchen, and two years after opening Alchemilla, the chef is in no hurry to upheave things. Apart from opening a wine bar - which, he said, "is a real possibility" - he's happy to stay put. 

"I don't want to be pulled between different sites because obviously that just becomes a problem for me."

For Alex, following his mentors' lead is a good standard to hold himself to.

"Look at Sat, Sat's not done anything else, look at how amazing the restaurant he's created is, how much it's evolved and how much better it's got and how much - all of that is coming from a single focus."

"If you want to open a new restaurant every year that's fine, I'm not disrespecting any of it, you have to do what you have to do. That's not for me, certainly not now." 

The only that could tempt him away from his core focus, he quipped, would be to open a curry house. 

"I love eating curry. I could give you a curry house better than all the Indian restaurants in Nottingham."

 

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th December 2019

Alex Bond says chefs aren't just grunting knobs anymore

IN ASSOCIATION WITH