10 minutes with: Ross Pike from The British Larder

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th June 2015
The British Larder is a brand that has not stopped growing ever since its inception in 2008. Starting out as a recipe diary and then developing into a pub, a cookbook and now entering into the realm of consultancy, the brand has branched out into a well-known name that encompasses an array of different aspects of the food industry. The successful company is the brainchild of Ross Pike and Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, both experienced chefs with incredible culinary expertise. The Staff Canteen spoke to one half of the duo, Ross Pike, to find out more. British Larder Strawberry Bavarois (1) low res“For me, my love of food started when I was 13,” explained Ross Pike. “I washed pots in a very good local pub which used to prep everything from scratch and I just loved being in the kitchen –I fell in love with being in that environment. Seeing the raw food come in the back door and then cooking it, I just fell in love with good honest cooking.” The British Larder has really evolved – the couple were always being asked how do you make this? Or how do you make that? So they decided to document all the things they had learnt in their careers. Ross said: “We’ve both worked with some amazing people and we just wanted to share our experiences and recipes with everyone. In the top restaurants you used to have to work there for a few years before you could be given a recipe in case you stole it or went off on your own. But we wanted to just put it everything out there.” Initially when they set up the website they looked at opening a cookery school due to requests form website users who wanted to be trained to cook the food the duo where publishing. “We scoured the UK for a building to situate a cookery school in,” said Ross. “Someone suggested we look at pubs as they are quick to pick up, in great locations for not too much money. Plus you can obviously do a lot of different things out of a pub. “We were doing food festivals in Suffolk and we fell in love with the Suffolk produce so we started concentrating on that area.”British Larder Asparagus (2) low res Ross and Maddie bought a pub in Suffolk in 2010 and called it The British Larder, they planned to turn it into a place where they could produce food and share it with everyone. As a result the cookery school was put on hold. Ross said: “We started developing recipes in the pub and then sharing them on the website – we didn’t hold anything back. Sharing everything is not what everyone would be happy doing but that’s what we wanted to do. “Maddie did all the photography, we did the food – the styling everything.” He added: “We get so many hits from all over the world, it’s really interesting – we have a map so we can see where the hits are coming from. We have a massive following in Australia, California, Saudi Arabia, it’s not just the British Isles even though our name is British Larder. “A lot of people from around the world look at what Britain is doing when it comes to food.” The British Larder has come a long way and as it has progressed new ideas have evolved. The pair now run The British Larder Food Consultancy and Ross explained: “We’re working with every aspect of the food industry from developing recipes for supermarkets to flavour profiles for crisps, down to training in sous vide recipes.” British Larder Blackcurrant and Violet Macaroons low resThe British Larder takes British seasonal produce and encompasses the many cultures in the UK and Ross said: “We’re not traditionally cooking British food, we do a lot of British dishes but take influences from other cuisines form around the world. We’re not scared of taking a carrot and doing a Moroccan style dish with it, but it always comes back to the seasonal ingredient. We want to celebrate the ingredient!” After six months the pub was doing well and getting top reviews from critics such as Jay Rayner. The pair realised they had something worth keeping and they began to focus on developing their team and pushing forward. As a result they were annually in the Top 50 Gastro Pubs list and received acclaim from the Michelin guide and The Good Food Guide. “We started thinking about what else we could do. We were still running the website, then we did a cookery book which was in Madelene’s name. It won the 2012 World Gourmand Cookbook Award for Best Cookbook by a Female Chef and was given the eponymous title: The British Larder: A Cookbook for all Seasons. Then we won Best Scotch Egg in the UK and started delivering them to Selfridges along with other canapés.” This venture led the couple to think about what other food items they could create which they could supply to high street stores. With all this going on they made the decision to shut down the website until their developer told them they were ‘crazy’ if they did.British Larder Lobster Salad low res “Because of the amount of followers we had he actually offered to buy the site from us,” explained Ross. “We had to decide which of our ventures was more important – the pub or the website. So we sold the pub and developed the website.” When asked if they would ever go back to owning somewhere, such as another gastro pub, Ross immediately answered: “Yes. I can’t say what and where but it’s definitely an idea.” The site has become more consultancy focused with the pair offering everything from food photography, chef training and menu development. They are now enjoying being involved in all aspects of food and using all their expertise to make their mark on the industry. They are also looking to inspire the next generation of hospitality hopefuls and show them just how diverse the industry is. “We want to work with colleges, the real grassroots of people coming into the industry. We want to share our knowledge with them,” said Ross. “It’s not just about being a chef anymore. Food is such a massive thing now, for a young person learning at college there are so many avenues they can go down. It’s not just going to work in a great pub or great restaurant – they can develop their career in so many different ways. British Larder Sea Bass, White Bait, Curried Cauliflower low res“I’ve done this and for me owning your own establishment is probably the most demanding but most rewarding thing. It’s a unique experience and we thought we knew a lot about owning our own place but you don’t know the half of it until you’ve done it yourself!” When it comes to cooking Ross enjoys focusing on the garnish and the vegetables on the plate rather than the prime ingredient of meat or fish. He said: “I like to keep it really simple. When we opened The British Larder pub there were eight or nine ingredients on a plate. When we closed there was a maximum of four but we made sure they were all cooked to perfection and tasted amazing! That’s when we got more recognition for our food, when we made it simpler.” See more dishes and recipes over on The British Larder website

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th June 2015

10 minutes with: Ross Pike from The British Larder