Chef of the Week: Bryok Williams of The Square at Porthleven, Cornwall
How long have you worked at The Square?
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
It probably started as a child. My sister and I often got to choose something to cook at the weekends. I remember making pizza from scratch and baking cakes. After finishing a chemistry degree, I decided that I really preferred to cook and I went to Leith’s school of food and wine in London.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the possibilities. You could cook 100 different dishes with the same few ingredients. There’s never a dull moment.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without
Salt because seasoning is the difference between a good and a great meal. Then ‘hard’ herbs like rosemary and thyme, which help add important layers of flavour to a dish. Thirdly, eggs, which maybe the most versatile ingredient of all.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A sharp knife. You can have as many gadgets as you like but without a knife they’re all surplus to requirements.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Not strictly a food trend but still important is the reduction of waste from kitchens. There’s definitely a trend towards cutting the amount of rubbish produced by restaurants. Reusable and recycled takeaway containers, recycling as much waste as possible, cutting down plastic use. Hopefully that’ll permeate into society in general.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not tasting food at every stage of cooking. Season as you go and build up those layers of flavour.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It’s difficult to say. I think I look forward to moments in the year when you know what’s coming. When you see the first asparagus of the year, or get those first juicy heritage tomatoes or when you get the first waft of elderflower.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of the dishes that come from the other guys in the kitchen, looking and tasting exactly how we want them. It means we’re producing a consistent, great tasting plate of food, and everybody is working, happily towards the same goal.
How do you come up with new dishes?
It’s generally led by the produce. If something’s in season, it’s likely to work with other things around at the same time. It’s just a case of playing around.
Who was your greatest influence?
I haven’t really got one person. I’ve been lucky to work for some great people, all of whom I’ve learnt something from. I think it’s important to always try and learn new things.
Tell us three chefs you admire
I’ve always enjoyed watching Keith Floyd on old programmes – he had a passion that’s difficult not to admire. I recently watched Paul Ainsworth on a show. He was teaching some people dishes he had developed. His attitude was really great – encouraging and full of positivity – and it made me think about how we communicate with each other in the kitchen. And, finally, the Roux brothers for their precision and technique.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I enjoy looking at cookbooks to be inspired by pictures and ideas, rather than specific recipes. The first one I fell in love with was Essence by David Everitt-Matthias from Le Champignon Sauvage.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
We’ve had some chefs work for us who have progressed to some great places. Special mentions go to Sam Batten, who is smashing it at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and Joe Fallowfield at The Elephant in Torquay.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I live in Newlyn, where a great independent cinema, The Newlyn Filmhouse, opened up. It has a great feel to it, and it has a surprisingly good restaurant, which really completes the package.