It’s not about egos, it’s about having aces in your places…”

Essential  Cuisine

Essential Cuisine

Premium Supplier 15th April 2015

It’s not about egos, it’s about having aces in your places…”

Chef Matt Davies is a busy man.

Not content with overseeing an 80-strong brigade, spread across four sites in Staffordshire – 1000 daily covers, taking in everything from fine and modern UK and European cuisine, right through to country cooking and gourmet burgers – the passionate West Midlander can list mentor, competition judge and passionate supporter of local cooking talent as unofficial job titles on his already impressive CV.

Allied to this, Matt has very recently been sworn in as Vice Chairman of the British Culinary Federation – a move that he’s been working up to throughout his long career behind the pass. For many other chefs this added responsibility, “supportive, ambassadorial, flying the flag for the UK” might come at a cost to their day job, but for Matt, it’s just another facet in his tireless pursuit of excellence.

Learning his craft under the watchful eye of “the godfather of modern Birmingham food”, Andreas Antona, for the last 17 years Matt has made excellence his mantra, first as Head Chef and then Group Executive Chef for the multi-award winning Lewis Partnership.Under Matt’s kitchen stewardship, and alongside Managing Partner, Chris Lewis, the company successfully runs four Staffordshire estates, the flagship, four AA star, Michelin-listed Moat House Hotel, the cosmopolitan, three-star Swan Hotel, the more deformalised Bear Grill and gastropub, The Dog and Doublet.

With four very distinct and “deliberately different” dining styles, the chef has been steadily forging a time-saving partnership of his very own, with Cheshire based Essential Cuisine, to ensure his menus work as hard as him and his team, while the food packs a consistent flavour punch, regardless of the outlet in which it’s served.

Moat House BW-21Matt has been working with the makers of quality British-made stocks, glaces and jus throughout his time at the Lewis Partnership, employing no less than eight products to work across his menus including Signature Beef Jus, Lobster, Game and Wild Mushroom Glace reductions, alongside Beef, Vegetable, Turkey and Fish Stock powders.

The Stock People live and die on the notion that the stock products deliver a taste as good as homemade, can go from pot to plate in minutes rather than hours, or even days, and give valuable time back to the chef and their brigade with which to create; Matt is inclined to agree.
“The products are just so versatile, and give me peace of mind that I can deliver that ‘bang’ of flavour impact across our menus.” “I’ve worked in Michelin-starred kitchens all my life and never tasted anything so damn close to kitchen made – some are probably even better than what we can make.”

As an example, Matt’s award-winning signature dish of ravioli of lobster and Loch Duart salmon, fondue of leeks, lobster bisque and Avruga caviar (second in Restaurant Magazine’s Best UK Dishes) uses Lobster Glace to add depth and immediate flavour impact, while his poached beef with oxtail utilises Wild Mushroom Glace and Beef Jus as the perfect base for its reduction.

“We have a bank of over 1000 recipes for the four sites, but the support we get from Essential Cuisine’s development chefs is invaluable.” Added Matt, “in the last 12 months, we’ve had them in for two development days with our head chefs, to work together on bespoke solutions. Their support is fantastic – they can show us how the products can work in certain dishes, we learn from each other, it’s very organic.”

It’s not about egos, it’s about having aces in your places…”

Moat HouseAs much as others are quick to heap praise on his abilities, Matt is the first person to enthuse about his close-knit brigade, the many benefits of team work in the kitchen and his ‘hands-on’ recruitment policy.

“All four of my head chefs came in as fresh face commis,” said Matt, and each has been with me for the last ten years – I know their characters and their skills back to front, and it’s this style of working that’s been bred into them to pass down the line – after all, you spend most of your life with your team – they’re an extension of your home, so you have to get on.

“I have nick names for all of them, but I don’t think they’re brave enough to say if they have one for me!”

With such a team-focused ethos, Matt is the perfect fit as judge in Essential Cuisine’s search for the UK’s hardest working chef team – Britain’s Best Brigades.

Launched in January this year, The Stock People are recruiting kitchens to represent and do battle in eight regions across the UK – London, the South East, the South West, the Midlands, the North East, the North West & Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Matt joins Chef Patron of Liverpool’s Hope Street Hotel, Paul Askew and Executive Chef at London’s Park Lane Sheraton, Andrew Bennett MBE, alongside Essential Cuisine MD, Nigel Crane in an exacting panel. So what does he look for in his ideal brigade?

“It’s not about ego, it’s about having ‘aces in your places’ – individuals with discipline, skill, empathy communication, style and belief. These are the ingredients that make the best brigades, and that’s what I’ll be looking out for as a judge.

“The team is the most important thing to a chef – Essential Cuisine understand this better than most and their little pots of stock are the nucleus of our brigade.”

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