Chef of the Week: Anita-Clare Field, Chef Proprietor at La Petite Bouchée in Devon
How long have you worked in your current restaurant?
Since it opened August 2014
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
From my darling Mama, She was a fantastic cook, she never served the same meal more than once a month, our palates were always dazzled with new tastes and textures with every meal she served and she actively encouraged us to cook from a very young age. She didn’t use recipes verbatum, they served as a guide. We were taught about tasting our food as we cooked and how to balance flavours from very early on. I am a self taught chef, I have had no formal training.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Seeing a dish evolve from inception to plate using the finest ingredients most of which We are so lucky to have on our doorstep. I’m not going to lie all Chefs love to hear that their food has been well received and hearing the buzz from the dining room motivates me to raise the bar higher.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without?
Garlic, good stocks, alcohol ( wine, brandy etc)
Which piece of kitchen equipment you couldn’t cook without?
My knife roll. Good knives are essential in the kitchen
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Once again pickling and fermenting seem to be in the ascent, which is great because I come from a long line of picklers and preservers and there are always both on our menus. Watch out for more in the months to come !
What do think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not thinking enough about the whole picture when designing menus. We pride ourselves on being able to replicate 90% of our dishes for guests with intolerances and allergies. Too many chefs still don’t go the extra mile and leave guests dissapointed. We hear stories all the time from diners.
What is your favourite time of year for food and why?
It has to be Autumn. lots of earthy vegetables coming into season and yet still crops from the summer. We grew nearly 80% of our own fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible crops last year in our Front of House team’s Poly tunnel. This year we’re just starting to get going. The seeds are in and our fingers are crossed.
Which of Your Dishes Are You Most Proud Of ?
In truth, I am proud of all of the dishes we serve here, however, I particularly enjoy cooking with fish and shellfish. Balancing flavours and textures whilst keeping the main ingredient as the star of the dish. I’m so blessed to work with the most amazing produce here in North Devon.
How do you come up with new dishes?
I look at seasonal ingredients, then build the dish around them. Ideas simply come into my head, taste, textures, the look of the plate. I have a notebook for menu ideas and ideas for the restaurant, but I don’t draw plates, there’s no need. I’m inspired a lot by precious family memories.
Who Was Your Greatest Influence?
My amazing parents for introducing me to an array of flavours at such a young age both at home, in restaurants and on holiday. La Petite Bouchée is very much influenced by our very happy times in France as a family, with close friends,eating fresh produce the market and enjoying some of the best seafood i’ve ever tasted. Recreating the taste and feeling in each dish and giving diners that same relaxed experience is key to the ethos of our little dining room.
Tell Us Three Chefs You Admire?
Raymond Blanc – I love the fact that he is self-taught and that one of his biggest inflences was his Mama. His food is beautiful and you can just see the passion on every plate.
Paul Bocuse – Simply a genuius. The master.
Anne-Sophie Pic – I love the way she uses seasonal produce in such a simple yest mind-blowing and inspiring way.
What is your Favourite CookBook?
Such an unfair question, we have over 700 cookbooks and I love them all for so many different reasons. if you were to ask me which is your favourite cookbook today, I’d have to say I’m pretty into Pollen Street, by Jason Atherton at the moment. Ask me again tomorrow ?
Who are the chef’s to watch over the next few months?
Definitely Elly Wentworth, she’s doing amazing things over there in Dartmouth !
What’s Been Your Favourite New Restaurant Opening of Last Year?
Keeping it reasonably local, Duende just over the border in Somerset. Tim Zekki Chef Patron has had a similar journey in food and his idea are totally amazing. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him recently and it was a joy.