Jim Day, Head Chef, Casamia

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2016

Jim Day is head chef at the Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant, Casamia.

His career with brothers Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias began after he was 'blown away' while dining there and he started working in the kitchen on his days off. Fast forward to 2016 and he continues to push Casamia forward, he is ambitious but equally focused on making sure the late Jonray would be proud. Last year 32-year-old Jonray passed away after a four year fight with skin cancer but Jim says he is still 'reflected in everything we do'.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Jim about working for the brothers, why he wanted to be a chef and if he will ever work anywhere other than Bristol!

Jim Day, Head chef at Michelin starred restaurant Casamia in Bristol
Jim Day

Why did you want to be a chef? When did your interest in food start?

To be honest I’ve had a passion for food for as long as I can remember. At first, from a very young age, I took a real interest in helping my mum cook.  And I also loved watching all the programs on TV, thinking ‘this looks cool.’

Then once I entered a professional kitchen for the first time, I was hooked.  I just love the buzz of it. 

How did you end up working for Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias at Casamia?

I went to eat at Casamia and was totally blown away - from the food to the family history – it all seemed so special and something I wanted to be part of. Anyone who knew Jonray knows how infectiously friendly he was, so as I returned to the restaurant a few more times to eat, he started to invite me back into the kitchen and let me see how it all worked.  On my third or fourth visit I asked Jonray and Pete if I could come down on my days off to learn from them.  Their style was something I’d never experienced before and, for me, they took food to a new level.

How are you finding the role of head chef? What are your daily responsibilities at Casamia?

I love working at Casamia, it is such a great place to work and feels like a really exciting thing to be part of.  I know it’s clichéd, but it really is like a family here, and to be given the responsibility of head chef is something I don’t take lightly. I’ve always been ambitious, and wanted to be a head chef, so I’m in my element. 

With the title comes a lot of responsibility that pushes and drives me personally, which in turn allows me to drive Casamia, our family and team, forward. 

Dream Brigade 

Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Sat Bains

Claude Bosi

Tom Kerridge

Gordon Ramsay

Paul Anisworth

Casmia Team

My daily responsibilities are all those involved in the day to day running of the kitchen; from team briefings to overseeing orders, organisation to problem solving, and then running service with Peter.

What have the brothers been like to work with?  

They’re amazing.  From day one we got on so well and they treated me like their third brother.  We bounced off each other and I’m so grateful for their openness and willingness to teach me everything they know.  I continue to learn from Pete every day and know I wouldn’t be the chef I am, without them.

 Does Peter still have a lot of input at Casamia?

Absolutely, they are so hands on.  Jonray is reflected in everything we do and we’re so lucky that we have all his notes and drawings to work from, so it’s like he’s with us.  And Pete leads everything – that’s what’s so special about Casamia. 

Is the menu down to you?

It’s a collaborative effort from Jonray, Peter, Josh (Green – our Development Chef) and myself.  But Peter will always make the final decision.

Jim Day, head chef at Michelin starred restaurant Casamia in BristolHas working at Casamia influenced your style?

Definitely.  They changed the way I think and treat food, and the importance of great produce.  If you start with great produce, that’s the most important part done.  Then it’s all about taste and enhancing the natural flavours. 

Basically when I serve you a carrot, I want you to think ‘this is the best carrot I’ve ever eaten’ and that’s what Casamia has taught me to be able to do. 

 Is it hard to find your own style having worked under Jonray and Peter’s influence?

Now I’ve been working so closely with Jonray and Pete, I think like they do.

 What have you learnt from them?

So much.  And not only about cooking.  If I had to sum it up, they’ve taught me a different way of thinking about food, to have a strong attention to detail and opened my eyes to new flavour combinations.

At Casamia, as the menu changes with the seasons, do you have an ingredient that you look forward to working with?

I love rhubarb and I first started at Casamia one of the first dishes I worked on with Jonray was a rhubarb dish. Jonray was a massive fan of rhubarb and I can remember him opening up the box and the scent just hitting us.  

Variations of rhubarb - a dessert by Jim Day, head chef at Michelin starred restaurant Casamia in Bristol
Variations of rhubarb

Coming from the Cadbury House Hotel into Casamia, what really stands out when you move into a Michelin environment?

The attention to detail and high standards.  And the fact that you are able to focus 100% on the restaurant menu and getting that right, not having to think about other events, breakfast etc.

Who inspires you?

I have always been a big fan of Gordon Ramsay I used to watch all of his TV programs when I was younger and have all of his books. 

Jonray and Peter.  Hearing their stories about opening their own restaurant in Cheltenham, having to close it and still not giving up on their passion and dream is inspiring to me.  And then to see what they have turned Casamia into now I think is an inspiration for any chef.

I have been very lucky to meet and cook with some great chefs, with the Casamia team, and they are all inspiring in their own way.

What has been your single biggest professional challenge whilst at your current operation and how did you overcome this?   

I think it was when Casamia was on Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant TV show.  We had a coach of 30 people turn up and we had to feed them all our tasting menu, at the same time, within 2 hours.  30 covers, all at once, is a push at the best of times but adding the pressure of the competition and Gordon made it a massive challenge.

Michelin starred Bristol restaurant Casamia
Casamia     

You’ve only worked in Bristol, Is Bristol your hometown? Would you ever want to work in a London restaurant?

I was born in Bristol, and live just outside.  There are so many great restaurants in London, and all over the world.  I love visiting them but I do like coming back to Bristol.  If I hadn’t have started working at Casamia who knows where I would be, but for the foreseeable I’m very happy in Bristol. 

What are your plans for the future?

My current plans are to keep working and helping Peter pushing Casamia forward.  Trying to making Jonray proud.

>>> Read more about Casamia and brothers Jonray and Peter here

>>> Check out the other interviews in our Heroes of the Hotplate series here...

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2016

Jim Day, Head Chef, Casamia