Chef of the Week: Jamie Houghton, Pastry Sous at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
What is the name of the current restaurant you work at and how long have you worked there?
I have worked at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for 7 and a half years.
Give a brief overview of your career.
I’m originally from Essex and started in the kitchen when I did my work experience in year 10 so I was around 15 years old and went on to get a job from that at the weekends (The barn brassiere). I went to Colchester Institute to study professional cookery and advanced patisserie for 3 years and worked at the weekends at the same time (Dedham Boathouse). After I left college I worked full time at Kesgrave Hall as the pastry chef. During my time here I was a mentee for the pastry world cup in 2012/2013. I left Kesgrave Hall (2 rosette) after 2 and a half years to become a commis at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons 2 Michelin star. I have now currently worked at Le Manoir for 7 and a half years and am the sous chef in the pastry, number 2 to Benoit Blin. During my time here I have won the UK sugar championships, came 3rd in the Stephane Glacier trophy of sugar art won the UK pastry open and was team captain for the UK in the pastry world cup where the UK places 5th in the world. Our best ever result. I also won the best sugar prize and the pastry world cup.
Where did you learn your skills/culinary education?
I went to Colchester Institute for 3 years studying professional cookery and advanced Patisserie.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
There is one reason that I became a chef and that was to put a smile on people’s faces. Even now when I get the chance to speak to guests, I still get the enjoyment of that. I’m also extremely competitive so having taken part in the multiple competitions including representing my country has been extremely fulfilling.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
There are multiple ideas that I’ve had over the years that I’m extremely happy with. I don’t think there is one dish that I’m most proud of. But the dish that I created for the UK pastry open (compressed caramelized apple, pistachio, caramel, lemon and coriander) was probably the most rounded dessert that I have created.
How do you come up with new dishes?
It can be a very long process. It starts with an initial idea, normally a flavour profile. You then work out your textures and temperatures, move on to elements. You can end up creating a dish you didn’t mean to end up creating but that is how it goes sometimes. You can’t hold yourself down to one idea that you have otherwise you may miss something that is better.
Who was your greatest influence?
Before I came to Le Manoir, I used to watch Raymond Blanc on tv constantly. I loved his passion for food, the way he talked about and the energy he showed towards it. After working for him for awhile now I can say that he is still a great influence for me. He is as passionate and a lively on tv as he is in really life.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I couldn’t say that I have one cookbook that is my favourite. I’m constantly looking at different books to see different ideas and to see how different chefs create. I recently got bought for me Jordi Roca’s chocolate book Casa Cacao and I’m really enjoying reading it. Its a really good story behind where chocolate came from along with good recipes and a insight to a 3 Michelin start restaurant.