Chef of the Week: Chris Alexander, Executive Chef at Restaurant Associates in Birmingham

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked at Restaurant Associates for 2 years as a Exec Chef in corporate hospitality.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion came from my family, watching my grandparents grow their own vegetables in their allotments. The idea of picking something and turning it into a meal interested me. I believe that’s how it all started. I learnt my skills in high end accoladed restaurants, and have also done stages in 1 and 2-star restaurants that I have admired, and I will continue doing so.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Creativity, great produce, development with the team with dishes and the big one, always learning something new.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without?
That’s a hard one… onion, garlic and flour.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My Japanese knife.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I feel the biggest trend and focus now is very much no wastage, stainable produce and producing dishes with a low carbon footprint.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Chasing money, we all have to live I get it but learn your trade as mush as you can. Get some stages in high end restaurants. It will pay off in the long run.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Springtime is one of my favourites. It brings such great produce and a great time to forage. I find the dishes are lighter but still big flavours this time of year.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I think if I had to pick one it would be my “Asian Beef Tartar, Beef Dumpling, Dashi broth. “  it is fresh, clean and hits all the right notes.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I like to take inspiration from classics and applying twists plus adding in current trends.  I feel my style constantly changes and believe every dish is a team event. In the kitchen we come up with an idea and the dish evolves.

Who was your greatest influence?
Many chefs Thomas Keller, Magnus Nilsson. But I’ve had some great influences along my career. Chef Jon Mills opened my eyes to what you could do with one good ingredient, with a great tuna three ways dish that inspired me and pushed me to feed my passion. Chef Paul Gilmore is a great chef and the same very grounded chef taught me flavour is always first and how to pack flavour in.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Tom Shepherd, Gareth Ward and Adam Thomason.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Noma Guide to Fermentation or Fäviken.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Stuart Deeley at Smoke and Brad Carter at Carters at Eighteen.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
It’s not last year but it’s got to be Upstairs by Tom Shepherd. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I have eaten at Adams when Tom was there. But it’s my favourite because Tom is an inspiration and what he’s achieved in the time frame. You must admire his drive and achievements.