Cal Byerley, Head Pastry Chef, Forest Side

The  Staff Canteen
Cal Byerley is Head Pastry Chef at the Forest Side situated in the heart of the Lake District. He has worked in a number of award winning establishments such as the Matfen Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa, the two AA rosette restaurant, The Wellington at Wynard Hall and spent two years at Simon Rogan’s Rogan and Co where he first met his current mentor, Kevin Tickle. Cal has been in his current role at the Forest Side for just over a year now helping transform the once dilapidated building and overgrown garden into a magnificent Victorian inspired yet modern 20 bedroom hotel. The Staff Canteen had the chance to speak to Cal about why trainee pastry chefs are his biggest challenge, why patience is a virtue and plans to start his own farm. Garden call byerley low resCan you tell us a little bit about your background, how did you get into pastry? I grew up on the out skirts of Newcastle on my family’s farm. I sort of fell into the industry I guess. My father arranged for me to wash dishes at our local pub when I was about 15 and from there I’ve never looked back, having been encouraged into the cooking side of the kitchen after that. Have you always been a pastry chef or have you covered other areas of the kitchen? I’ve covered all sections of the kitchen but I obviously favour the pastry section to any other. I’d like to think I could probably still do them all now but I think in reality I’d probably go down on four covers just doing the garnish - I’ll stick with sugar!
Desert island desserts ice cream!- dependent on whether there is a freezer on this island. raspberry pavlova carrot cake chocolate eclair rhubarb crumble
The thing for me about pastry is that you can create a recipe that you can work on until eventually it can be perfected and then changed into something different once you have the key elements. It’s all a science and a lot of things in this sector of the kitchen are down to eye. I just like that whole element of preciseness that comes with pastry and the fact that everything is very precise and you need a recipe to go with things. How many chefs are in your team? There are 11 of us working in the kitchen at the moment, with room potentially for a few more in the future as the hotel quote What are the biggest challenges you face in your role as head pastry chef? For me the biggest challenge is definitely managing trainee pastry chefs. I have high expectations and can probably come across extremely demanding. I try to remind myself that mistakes do happen and people do learn from them. Patience is definitely something I’m still working on. Obviously foraging is a major influence on the menu at the Forest Side, how do you think your dishes reflect the style of the menu? I think my dishes help tell a story of what we’re all about and really flow with the rest of the dishes on the menu. The expression ‘field to fork’ gets thrown around a lot these days but it’s not just farms that we rely on. Many of our ingredients are foraged daily from the fell side behind the hotel or even as far as the coast of Cumbria. The past few weeks we’ve had a team of guys hiking the fell side to tap birch trees for their sap on a daily basis. I’ve really learnt to appreciate the true value of the ingredients we use on our menu after I’ve seen the effort that goes into growing and foraging. At the moment on pastry I’m using rowan shoots which have a beautiful taste of a combination between almond and pistachio flavours, homemade sloe gin that we made last year, sea buckthorn which we spent over a week processing after foraging from the coast and flowering currant and sweet cicely that grows around the hotel and that really is just naming a few. Sorrel, preserved blueberry low resHow much do you rely on seasonal produce for your dishes? I completely rely on seasonal produce for my dishes. We’re very lucky at Forest Side to have such a skilled garden team who we can plan out a yearly growing schedule with so we know what we’ll have and when. We’re all excited to see what the garden brings us in the future as the fruit trees begin to bare fruit and the polly tunnels, state of the art greenhouse and over 100 raised beds really start to flourish. Seeing all of the herbs, fruit, vegetables etc. throughout the growing process really helps with an understanding of when it is best to use everything and harvesting something at the perfect time to use that ingredient. Is there one ingredient that you enjoy working with the most? No not really, I do wonder where we’d be without eggs though! Do you think the overall look of the dish is just as important as the taste? Without a doubt, I think it shows that someone has really put effort into their work when it is presented well. Seeing something that hasn’t makes me wonder if the same amount of effort has gone into the prepping of the dish. For me they look that next level of presentation. It’s hard to present a slice of beef as well as it is to present a nice dessert. What would you say is your signature dish and why?Pear, malt and ginger beer low res I’ve been doing a scorched pear dish with a malt mousse and distorted malt tuille for some time now that really gets people talking. It is served with a side of our home brewed ginger beer that is popped and poured at the table. Who has been your biggest influence throughout your career? Kevin Tickle, without a doubt. I spent two years working with him when we were both at Rogan and co and again now at Forest Side. He’s opened up a whole new world to me about cooking that I didn’t know existed. Would you advise young chefs to choose earlier to specialise or experience all aspects of the kitchen then choose? I think it is incredibly important to experience all aspects of the kitchen. I would urge any young chef to be patient and climb all the ranks. I think if you show any interest in doing the pastry section early on that’s where you will end up because it is a relief to a lot of chefs that they don’t have to do it. I have found that a lot of chefs almost shun it and joke that it’s not really a proper section! I guess for a lot of kitchens the pastry section is the last thing to do, so if you’re working with a small brigade and one guy is on sauce, another on larder, etc. when that job is done if you’re in a kitchen struggling for chefs there’s always one person that has to jump over and do pastry. You also have to come in earlier and go home later so there are a lot of negative things that come with the job. cal quote 2What do you make of TV shows now like the Bake Off and Crème de la Crème? I think all of these shows are good for the industry but years ago you got shows about boiling point and Gordon Ramsay’s F word and for me I don’t think they created a great impression of the kitchen for young chefs coming into the industry. They watch certain programmes and they think it’s all just a bit of swearing and a bit of fun and then they come into the industry and its not like that, but I think programmes like the Bake Off show how hard it actually is but that it's a great section to work on. I get a lot of waiters and waitresses ask me about it, it seems very popular with the FOH and I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s because people like sweet things? What would you say is the hardest area for a young pastry chef to learn? In order to work in pastry you need to have a lot of patience. There’s such an eagerness to have everything ready. If you roll out your bread and you have your satin tins and your proving it, there’s that anticipation where you just want to cut into it but obviously there is a long waiting process before you can actually bake it. Then once it is baked you also have to wait again before you can carve it or cut into it. Anything that requires a precise amount of time like macaroons, you can spend that time whipping your meringue or go through your mix, you just have to wait for them to have a shell. But once they’re baked people are so eager to pull them of off the mat even before they’ve had time to cool. There’s so many instances like that you can name, but it is all just down to waiting and being patient. Aside from having patience it’s hard to pick out any one part of pastry that’s difficult to master, I rhubarb 2  low reswould have to say just keeping on top of everything. Managing each bit is one of the hardest things because there are just so many different things you need to keep a check on. It’s all down to getting the right balance between when to do things and how often, and also getting to grips with things that take longer to prep. So I guess time keeping is one of the biggest things for me. Why do you feel Pastry is such a specialised area? I think it is about the amount of variables. When you cook a bit of fish it can be under, just right or over cooked but when you make a cake it can be too sweet, under risen, too buttery, not light enough, the wrong colour, the wrong shape, etc, etc. There’s a lot of waiting around for things to be ready as well, it is not for everyone. What are your future plans? I’ve been planning on getting more involved in the growing side of things so I can learn the necessary skills involved so I can start my own farm. Using the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from the industry to give back eventually. Plus it must be nice working outside.    
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th April 2016

Cal Byerley, Head Pastry Chef, Forest Side