Chef of the Week: JP Bidart, Chef Proprietor of Le Guest Chef in Devon

How long have you worked at your current restaurant? 
Having worked as head chef for more than 30 years, I recently took a brave step in setting up a private chef company. ‘Le Guest Chef’ aims to provide a solution to the growing popularity of eating in with friends and family, but with restaurant quality food. I am fortunate enough to have my professional kitchen at home which works very well for all types of venue and requirements.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking comes primarily from my family. I come from a typically large French family, where food is at the centre of everything. Growing up, I would watch, my parents spend hour after hour, preparing elaborate meals for regular culinary gatherings, of which there were many (and still are). I’d help my father with his allotment and veg patch and dishes would be created around what was in season and available. We smoked our own fish and cured our own meats. Weekends would be spent foraging and collecting mussels and winkles.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I never wanted to do anything else except cook. Being a chef is hard work, but like most chefs, my reward is delivering pleasure though food and being congratulated for doing this well.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Easy – salt, butter and garlic.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My knives (no chef can do without these). But also, my Magi mix and Kitchen aid mixer are my essentials.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Vegan cooking seems to be the trend right now. I have a vegan wife, so I’ve been exposed to the wonders of ‘Aqua Faba’, seitan and Tofu for a few years now. It has opened up a whole new way of cooking for me and the possibilities are endless. My vegan ‘bounty bars’ are a firm favourite.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down? 
Common mistake is to get stuck in a routine of cooking the same dishes, however popular they are on the menu. A chef needs to be challenged and continue to experiment with different ingredients and combinations to retain the passion. A passionless chef will create average food.  A chef who is driven by passion, can create unforgettable dishes.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why? 
I love all the seasons, but especially Winter. The winter months are the time for wonderful slow cooked stews, often involving cheaper cuts of meat that melt with the long cooking hours. The game season runs throughout the winter, and some of my favourite dishes are based on venison, pheasant, wood pigeon, partridge and wood cock, so I am probably at my culinary peak in winter. That said, summer spring and autumn are not far behind.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My own version of the classic Bouillabaisse. Duck breast, leg confit medallion, croquette and foie gras. Wild mushroom, garlic fondant potatoes, red wine and cherry griottines sauce.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I have a huge back catalogue of my own dishes and those inspired by other chefs, most of which are filed in my memory. I tend to be led by the main food elements required, and then pick various complimentary additional ingredients from other dishes, to create a new bespoke dish. I have a vision of the finished plate and a strong sense of the overall taste before I start cooking. That’s the skill that a chef learns over years of cooking.

Who was your greatest influence? 
Bernard Loiseau.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Ripailles by Stephen Reynaud.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
David Gobbet – Head Chef of The Millbrook Inn, South Pool in Kingsbridge and Jamie Lee Burnard of ‘Twenty-Seven’ Kingsbridge.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Twenty-Seven in Kingsbridge.