Kevin Love Head Chef The Hinds Head Berkshire

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th December 2012
Kevin Love is the head chef of The Hinds Head, a gastropub in the village of Bray, Berkshire owned by the award-winning Heston Blumenthal. The restaurant is located in the same village of Blumenthal’s famous Fat Duck restaurant, at which Kevin has also worked, and has become famous for its traditional pub food with a twist, such as triple-cooked chips. Kevin is originally from West Sussex and trained at Chichester College. Inspired by the culinary movement in Spain, he spent five years working in restaurants in Catalunya and the Pyrenees with chefs such as Santi Santamaria. He moved back to England and worked a little at both The Hinds Head and The Fat Duck. Kevin took a job as Head Chef for an award-winning catering company, but knew he wanted to be back in Bray. The opportunity finally arrived in spring 2010 when a position of Sous Chef came up at The Hinds Head. By that summer he had become Head Chef. With him at the helm, the pub was declared ‘Michelin Pub of the Year’ in 2011.

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Tell us more about your role at The Hinds Head I'm responsible for the whole kitchen. We have a pretty big brigade of 26 chefs and consistency is key - making sure the kitchen’s running efficiently; new dishes and development; and everything else that comes with a normal head chef role. What’s the advantage of having Heston’s name above the door and what does it bring to the operation at The Hinds Head? First and foremost, we are not the Duck and we’re honest about that – there’s nowhere like the Duck and there will never be another. But we do offer something a bit different. What it gives us is unique access to world-class facilities in the development of dishes. The team here in Bray has got that feeling of a family where we share an ethos, in this case to food, service and development ideas and concepts. I’ve never known anywhere like it. Having Heston’s name means we look at the business and decide how it can be the very best it can. We look for excellence and then a bit more. In comparison to The Fat Duck, The Hinds Head seems much bigger. How many covers do you do? Yes, the place is much bigger and spread across two floors. Upstairs we have private dining – more often than not we’ve got parties going on up there almost daily and in December it will be multiple parties, every day. We’re usually serving around 1200 to 1500 covers a week, depending on how busy we are. How would you describe the dishes you’re doing here and can we expect the ‘Heston twists’? It’s pub food done well and, of course, with our own take on it. Everything’s quite technical but served simply. For example, our oxtail and kidney pudding is just that, with an oxtail sauce, however, the dish is very technical and well thought out; slow-cooking, long-cooking, three-day sauces and so on. Every element of each dish is practiced over and over again until we are all happy with it. Only then does it go on the menu. It is however important to us that we keep the ethos of a pub. We don’t want to alienate pub goers. Because of the number of covers, we will never be your average country pub. It’s more brasserie style than anything, but I think we do it very well. How do you balance creating beautiful, technical dishes and maintain the standard with so many covers? That’s the hardest thing. We can’t be fiddling around on the pass too much. I think there is beauty in simplicity and we’ve designed the dishes with that in mind, which helps us get them out fast, but they’re still delicious, still beautiful. What are your most popular dishes? They’re all popular! We’re currently cooking our way through Heston’s book and doing our own versions of his dishes. The five-spice duck dish, served with pak choi, cucumber, and duck sauce, is really popular. We average just fewer than 300 steaks a week; a rib eye with bone marrow sauce and, of course, the triple cooked chips. Starter-wise, the snail dish flies out. We took the elements of a dish called ‘How to make a Snail Hash’, and played with them, brought them up to date, but still kept the dish true to the original recipe. It’s basically snails on toast, but has lots of other components: pistachio paste; salt and vinegar pistachios; pickled walnuts; pickled onions; caper berries; deep-fried capers; fennel; walnut dressing. We use a sourdough bread, washed in egg wash, so it’s almost like French toast and the snails are cooked holding them in garlic butter in a water bath. It’s pure simplicity. It’s easy to serve; easy on the eye, but when you bite into it you can taste all the time and effort that’s gone into the dish. How do you go about changing the menu? We change the menu dish-by-dish and try to let the seasons guide us, but as you know they’re not set in stone anymore. The past few years we’ve had weird micro-seasons, so you’re getting stuff in February that you shouldn’t see until April. To keep in touch with what’s happening, I speak to my suppliers daily, but the biggest thing for us is quality and consistency. We prep dishes by the hundreds, so an ingredient can’t be too rare or limited. It’s difficult sometimes; you want to use a particular product and the supplier will say, ‘well, I can get twenty or thirty a week.’ I need twenty or thirty a day! You’ve built yourself a great reputation, you’ve got the star now, but you’re still young. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time and what’s the goal for your future? We never really set out to get a star or any other award for that matter. What gets us out of bed in the morning is to be the best we can be. Great food and great service. We just want to give our guests the best possible. We push ourselves every single day. When the awards and accolades come of course that’s rewarding – its great for everyone in the team and morale. The beauty of working for Heston is you never know what’s around the corner and that’s exciting. Just want to keep improving really and building on what’s been done so far.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th December 2012

Kevin Love Head Chef The Hinds Head Berkshire