Chef of the Week: Ben Humphreys, Chef Patron at District in Manchester

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I’m Chef Owner of District. We’ve had the site since January 2020 and opened on May 27th 2020.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking grew over time working my way through kitchens in my hometown of Llandudno, then onto Manchester and London.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The thing I enjoy most is the opportunity to be creative, to do my best to work on something original. In the past that ambition to be creative was limited to food only. But with District alongside my business partner we’ve created a unique restaurant concept and a progressive drinks menu.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
District is a New Wave Thai kitchen so three ingredients I couldn’t cook without here would be limes, fish sauce and chilli!

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Well all our ingredients touch the barbecue here at the restaurant so I should really say I couldn’t live without that. But for me I love making sauces, pastes and relishes so couldn’t be without my pestle and mortar and  Thermomix.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’d say being very ingredient led. It sounds obvious but I have noticed more and more good restaurants working with local farms and growers. We’ve had some amazing produce from Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire. We’re hoping they can grow some Thai vegetables for us in the future.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I’d probably say not tasting enough. Also trying to recreate another chefs style, you need to find your own vibe.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I like all the seasons but if I had to choose I’d say summertime because I like creating fresh light dishes with lots of herbs and citrus.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
This changes every week! I think it’s between: Raw Wild Bass | Nam Jim | Purple Yam | Thai Basil or Aged Goosenargh Duck | Phat Phet Jus | Apple Aubergine.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I’ve had a lot of inspiration from travelling back to my wife’s hometown in Thailand and eating with her family.

Who was your greatest influence?
My wife Bo.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Firstly I mostly admire my kitchen team of Simon, Peter and Tom because they work very hard. Outside of our restaurant I’d say Virgilio Martinez at Central Lima, Gareth Ward at Ynyshir Hall in Wales and Joe Napol of 80/20 Bangkok.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Thai Food by David Thompson. We cook progressive Thai food at District, but you have to respect the classics and the rich history of the cuisine.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
In Manchester I’d say James Lord at Tine and Joseph Otway at Higher Ground. Broth great chefs and good lads.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Mine, it’s the only one I’ve been to!