Chef Focus

Award winning chef talks shop: "I'd cook a decent burger for Elvis Presley"

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Brenner (C) collects his award for Pub Restaurant Chef of the Year 2015
Brenner (C) collects his award for Pub Restaurant Chef of the Year 2015

Related tags: Elvis presley, Cooking

The newly crowned Craft Guild of Chefs Pub Restaurant Chef of the Year 2015 Ray Brenner, of Hampshire gastropub the Chequers, in Eversley Cross, talks tongs, posh egg and chips, and cooking for the king of rock ’n’ roll with Daniel Woolfson 

What’s your favourite bit of kit?

I couldn’t live without my pair of tongs — they’re like an extension of my arm. As long as you know what you’re doing, and you’ve got the knowledge behind you, you can cook with most bits of kit. If you haven’t got the basic equipment, you’re going to struggle. Give me a pair of tongs, a cloth, a decent bit of food, a knife and a six burner gas ring and I’ll be all right.

Who is your biggest chef inspiration?

Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc have been two huge inspirations for me. I used to work at Hush, in Mayfair, and we used to get a lot of big names through the kitchen. Those two always stood out as the most grounded. Their concepts, ethical sourcing of food and the way they go about running a business really stands out to me.

What’s your favourite pub dish?

If I could only pick one for the rest of my life it would have to be maple-cured gammon rib eye with a poached egg and chips. It’s essentially posh ham egg and chips. Simple food cooked well.

What’s your favourite ingredient?

We have a great egg supplier — Stokes Farm, Wokingham. Their free-range eggs are amazing. I like to go a bit egg-tastic with my dishes — there’s always a poached egg here and most of my desserts have a decent amount of egg in them. Some people like to go with extra butter and flour but I’ll always put extra egg in. It’s such a great product.

What pub, restaurants and concepts have really stood out to you recently?

I went to the Crazy Bear, in Beaconsfield, not long ago and really enjoyed it. It’s about as posh as it gets with pub food. They’ve got a great Moroccan-style tent theme out the back and a fantastic garden where you can just have a bite to eat and a really nice cocktail in a relaxed atmosphere. They mate their own pigs and use them for all their pork products, I was impressed. I’ll definitely go back there.

What’s your number one rule for running a successful kitchen?

You’ve got to be true to your beliefs and if you believe sourcing local produce is best then do that even if it may be cheaper to buy bulk elsewhere. I spend more on food here than I have in any other place but the ethos is right. We use the most expensive meat and fish because it’s the best locally that we could get. And don’t change that just to make a bit more money on your dishes.

What are the worst kitchen sins?

I don’t appreciate deception. If something’s wrong let me know and we’ll fix it rather than covering it up. For instance, if someone catches the bottom of something and its overcooked but they carry on going and add it to another ingredient it can contaminate the whole dish. I understand they’re worried about the cost but you have to be honest. If you’ve made a mistake, let’s correct it and move on.

I don’t like too many things on a plate. It’s easy to overcrowd it and drown out the flavours. I don’t like to see lots of flowers on plates. It just seems unnecessary. Unless, for instance, it’s a courgette flower and it’s part of the dish. There’s a time and a place for it — although competition cooking is a bit different.

If you could cook for one person living or dead, who would it be and what would you cook them?

It would have to be Elvis Presley. I would cook him a decent burger, because I know he’d appreciate it and we’d have a good laugh.

Related topics: Chefs

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