Chef of the Week: Charles Mooyaart, Executive Chef at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked at The Tobacco Factory since October 2017, so nearly 4 years. I manage all food activities for Tobacco Factory Café Bar, Grain Barge, Five Acre Farm, The Farm Kitchen and Seasonal Pop-up operations such as The Yard Kitchen bar and more.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My grandma was a great chef. As soon as we showed up at her house for holidays, no matter what time, she’d start cooking or had something waiting for me. For me cooking was always her way of showing love and warmth. I remember helping my grandma peel garlic, chopping onions and other vegetables such as runner beans which she had grown in her garden. Looking back, the real fascination started here, skills and knowledge passed on by her experience and me as a young child reading recipes together out of old cookery books. The transfer of food knowledge from one chef to another is where I have learnt all my skills from, I have to thank everyone I have worked with for that!

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the adrenaline of the job, I’m an adrenaline junky, I live for the busy and (sometimes) hectic life of the kitchen. But most importantly it’s also a place where I can find peace and creativity, to be able to see something transform and evolve into something else. For me it’s my habitat and where I can get as close to nature as possible. Working in close knit teams and providing customers with fantastic food, it really something awesome and fulfilling.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Lemons, Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar from Forum and arbequina olive oil.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Coffee grinder (for my spices), silicone spatulas and piping bags.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Home delivery and meal boxes (due to pandemic), eco-consciousness, sustainably in menus, pickling and fermenting, plant-based foods, artisan pasta and I see more seaweed and algae on menus. Which I absolutely love!

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not keeping it simple and getting the basics right. This combined with not understanding their audience. Give the people what they want and what the business expects them to give. Drop the show-off attitude and pretentiousness. Be humble and more genuine in approach.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I love every season.  I think the autumn is my favourite season. The temperature is cooling down, the leaves are changing colour. The deep reds, dark purples, smoky greys, and inky blacks are the colours on the plates and dishes! I love to snuggle up in front of the fireplace and enjoy that magical feeling of being safe and warm inside when it’s chilly outside whilst eating a hearty pumpkin soup with sautéed nutty mushrooms (and I very much enjoy getting an extra hour of sleep).

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Sticky milk stout pudding with salted toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream – It’s been on the menu at Grain Barge for years, and it will never go off!

How do you come up with new dishes?
Brainstorming with other chefs, listening to other chefs, writing ideas down on paper and reading lots of cooking books.

Who was your greatest influence?
Simone Ambrosin- Chef Patron of Incanto in Amsterdam. A fine dining Italian restaurant where we made everything, and I mean everything from scratch.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Quique Dacosta, Carlo Cracco and Sidney Schutte.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Larousse – Gastronomique.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Tristan de Boer – Chef de Cuisine at the White Room in Amsterdam.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Loki- poke, based at Whapping Wharf, it’s just really refreshing, trendy and fun!