Chef of the Week: Nelson Barros Sa, Executive Pastry Chef at South Place in London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Since 2018 at South Place/Angler.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I started as a kitchen porter at The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne at 17 years old. I was just observing the chefs and was fascinated so decided to give it a go and loved the buzz.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Teaching and passing my knowledge on to the future generation, and learning something new every day.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Sugar, flour and butter.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Vegan but think this is a necessity for us and healthier desserts. However, in my view, if everyone ate sensibly we would not have as many issues we have today.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
It’s very simple, not listening to advice and being impatient. Learning how to cook takes time and patience. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Definitely spring/summer. It brings the best produce, especially fruit. Rhubarb, stone fruits and figs (my favourite!).

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
There are a few! First, my chocolate marjolaine dish, inspired by Fernand Point.  Then there’s my green shiso sorbet, yogurt and raspberry and my take on Vacherin with different fruits.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I just take the main element and think of the textures, tastes, temperature contrasts and the time of serving. Lots of experience and feedback from my team also helps.

Who was your greatest influence?
My dad (I worked with him as builder from a young age). He taught me integrity, discipline, honesty and work ethic. He is sadly no longer here, but I still see him in myself.

Also, Marc Marcellin. He is a great chef that really let me grow and was super patient with me. My time with Marc was probably some of my best years cooking and he is one of my close friends.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Marc Marcellin, Marc Wilkinson and Jordi Roca.

What is your favourite cookbook?
There are too many to choose from, but I’d have to say Kitchen Confidential by the late Anthony Bourdain. It’s not so much a cookbook, but a memoir. Reading it when I was just 20 years old resonated and gave me even more passion for cooking.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Me – I’m not joking… I can’t be specific because there is so much talent, but I’d like to see what Spencer Metzger (previously at The Ritz) will be up to next!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
To be completely honest, I haven’t been out for ages as I’ve got a young child!