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Top Tips and Advice from 3 Of Britain's Best Chefs

Life as a chef can be difficult, and the best way to progress is to take the advice from those who have been there before. So who better to provide that advice than three of the best chefs in Britain, each giving you great advice on running a business, things they would do differently now, their own number one piece of advice for chefs and aspiring chefs and much more. Ladies and gentlemen, we introduce today's chefs!

Your Chefs

Nathan Outlaw - The celebrated seafood chef operates from his base in Cornwall, running three restaurants including the recipient of two Michelin stars and four rosettes, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. When he isn't in the kitchen he has written an award winning cookbook, Nathan Outlaws British Seafood and has appeared on television shows such as Saturday Kitchen and The Great British Menu.

Shaun Rankin - Shaun Rankin has long been considered top chef by those who know, though his profile went through the roof when he started fronting his own cookery series on ITV. Since then the Yorkshireman has opened up his own celebrated, Michelin starred restaurant, Ormer, along with being selected to manage food and drink at the elite 12 Hay Hill, in London's Mayfair.

Vivek Singh - Proprietor of the famous Cinnamon Club restaurant, Vivek has become a household name thanks to his skill with spices and also with regular appearances on programmes such as Saturday Kitchen. When not running one of London's most successful restaurants, Vivek finds the time to write cookbooks, with five currently in circulation!

What We Asked The Chefs

  1. What is the most rewarding thing about owning/managing a restaurant?
  2. What would you have done differently earlier in your career if you knew then what you know now?
  3. What is the strangest ingredient you've ever used?
  4. What is the worst meal you've ever had?
  5. What piece of equipment can you not live without?
  6. Which food(s) is/are your guilty pleasure?
  7. For the chef's reading, what is your advice to them?

1. What is the most rewarding thing about owning/managing a restaurant?

Nathan OutlawNathan

The most rewarding thing is being able to make my own decisions. Now I can put my personal stamp on the restaurant. Everything from the décor to the music we play is my choice so customers really are getting the whole 'Nathan Outlaw package' when they dine. Of course that means that I'm also responsible should anything go wrong but that's a chance I'm willing to take!

 

Shaun RankinShaun

After working through all the plans, preparation, recruitment and operations there is a huge sense of pride when you reach your goal. It's a lot of hard work but such an achievement when you get there and customers come in and enjoy what you have created.

 

Vivek SinghVivek

It's generally a very uplifting profession, which allows one to make a positive difference in someone's day, week or life for that matter, in a very simple way. It involves entertaining, hosting, feeding, and connecting with a wide range of people from a wide range of different backgrounds and experiences, and giving them an opportunity to become a part of your story. It is an opportunity to express yourself through food, drink, space and stories. And the instant feedback from your guests is the bit that I like best about this business.

 

2. What would you have done differently earlier in your career if you knew then what you know now?

Nathan OutlawNathan

I wouldn't have gone into business with other people. However, it's very difficult not to do that when you are a young chef just starting out and money is tight so I'd probably have had to do exactly the same as I did and learn hard lessons along the way. I suppose it's a learning curve most of us have to travel...unless we win the lottery!

 

Shaun RankinShaun

Become a fisherman instead! Honestly though, I wouldn't change anything. I put in a lot of hard graft in the early years, had an amazing apprenticeship and it all got me to where I am today. A lot of the things I learnt in the early days, such as such as commitment and dedication, still stay with me today.

 

Vivek SinghVivek

Professionally, not a thing. I have allowed life to take its own course, taken opportunities when they have presented themselves, not always knowing what the future had in store. I'm very happy about it, I think it's important to have the bandwidth to be able to receive opportunity when it presents itself, and I've been very fortunate with this. Personally, I would have liked to explore the world a little more when I was younger, but didn't have the opportunity.

 

3. What is the strangest ingredient you've ever used?

Nathan OutlawNathan

Probably fish offal. There is something definitely very strange about cooking and eating fish offal. Customers think so too! However, if it's cooked properly and treated well, it can be really delicious.

 

Shaun RankinShaun

Last year I filmed an episode for the "Walking Through History" series with Tony Robinson and we researched and developed a number of dishes that were commonly eaten during the Jersey Occupation in WWII. We made coffee from dried parsnips and Limpet Stew. People had to be really inventive during the Occupation with food being so scarce and it was a fascinating trip into the history of the Island.

 

Vivek SinghVivek

Long ago I came across Sangri Beans and initially didn't get the point of it, but after having tried it a few times, I grew fond of it and its been on our menu at The Cinnamon Club since day one, 14 years ago. However, not all new discoveries end up that successful. I once tried dried ants in a rice dish and it didn't last very long on the menu.

 

4. What is the worst meal you've ever had?

Nathan OutlawNathan

That's a tricky one. I think I'll be diplomatic and say I only ever eat in places where I know the food will be good!

 

Shaun RankinShaun

Probably the last time I ate crab as I realised I was allergic! At least I still have lobster to replace it - I think it's best served simply with triple cooked chips and Béarnaise sauce.

 

Vivek SinghVivek

Life is too short to dwell on the worst meal. Actually it's never a bad meal that rakes with me. Like most people I can "do" good, but I can also understand bad. What I don't understand, however, is indifferent food.

 

5. What piece of equipment can you not live without?

Nathan OutlawNathan

My filleting knife. The one I use is tried and trusted and I've had it for years. In my line of work, I'd be lost without it.

 

Shaun RankinShaun

I couldn't live without my Wolf Dual Fuel range cooker at home. It's large enough to cope with entertaining and also resilient so it can handle lots of use. Like my cooking, it's not fussy but quality is paramount.

 

Vivek SinghVivek

Mortar and pestle, it is ideal for crushing small amounts of spices and gives you a perfumed kitchen. A good quality natural stone mortar and pestle is an essential for Indian cookery.

 

6. Which food(s) is/are your guilty pleasure?

Nathan OutlawNathan

Another tricky one. The best I can come up with is anything that really isn't good for me! I love thick slices of cheese on toast, tinned hotdog sausages, Marmite, Battenberg cake....ok so in fact, any cake. But not all on one plate, of course!

 

Shaun RankinShaun

I love to eat simple things at home, like homemade pasta with sage butter. If I have time for breakfast I do like a good smoked bacon sandwich with HP sauce!

 

Vivek SinghVivek

Spicy omelette in a tea cake; a favourite at home and quick and easy to prepare.

 

7. For the chef's reading, what is your advice to them?

Nathan OutlawNathan

Cook because it's something you love to do, not because you want to be the next top celebrity chef or because you think it's cool. The novelty will wear off. Passion alone isn't enough, you need desire and a love of doing it every day and night, week on week. If you have that, and you're prepared to listen and learn, and continue learning throughout your career, you'll be a good chef.

 

Shaun RankinShaun

Get out and travel; as a chef you never stop learning so experiencing different culinary cultures is essential. When I go on a trip I always come back to the kitchen with new inspirations and techniques and this keeps things interesting for our customers too. You also need to be prepared for all the hard graft ahead. It's not an easy journey to be successful as a chef and you work the longest hours of any profession. You need passion and determination to see you through but it's worth it when you open the first place that's yours. It's a long journey but don't give up what you want most for what you want now.

 

Vivek SinghVivek

No matter what age you are, no matter what stage in your career you are, the advice I give to chefs is to set aside £15 each month to buy a cookbook. Amazon frequently come up with lists of new releases, and for those that you can't buy for £15, buy every other month, there is no substitute for keeping up.

 

Nathan Outlaw picture kindly supplied by Stephen Perez.

20 May 2016

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