Chef of the Week: Paul Shearing, Head Chef at Bread Street Kitchen
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Since 2014 I have the lead the team at Bread Street Kitchen. We are an all-day dining restaurant in St. Paul’s serving a globally-inspired menu.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills
My passion for cooking comes from my love of great British ingredients. My grandparents had a plot of land in Dorset where I grew up. There were beds of vegetables, herbs and berries, along with apple and pear trees. A huge amount of our food was homegrown. I went onto train at college in Bournemouth and across France but my cooking has always revolved around the seasonal British produce that first inspired me to cook.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Teaching others whilst still learning myself. I enjoy passing on my knowledge to my team and apprentices and watching them grow into good all-rounder chefs. It is incredibly rewarding to see one of my senior staff teach a junior chef something that I once taught them.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Simply speaking, it would be salt, black pepper and butter.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
The Josper grill we have at Bread Street Kitchen – it is such a joy to cook on and we are constantly exploring ways to use it more. You can cook such a diverse range of food on the Josper, from steaks to salt-baked vegetables, and it gives such flavour to these.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Seaweed has really taken off. We have around 600 varieties of seaweed grown on the UK shores and restaurants are beginning to recognise its potential on the menu. Right now, we are serving sea bream dish with grilled broccoli, pink shrimps, saffron velouté and crispy seaweed.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Over-complication by taking something simple and overworking it. I believe that knowing when not to add something is as greater skill than knowing what to add. At Bread Street Kitchen, we focus on simplicity and pick ingredients that stand up for themselves.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
The start of every season is the most exciting time for the team as we discover and taste the best ingredients available. We spend a lot of time sitting down with suppliers and tasting the newly harvested vegetables to base our dishes on.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
This depends on the season, but currently it would have to be our slow-cooked lamb neck with creamed potato and clementine gremolata. Simplicity itself, but the dish is so comforting it makes you smile.
How do you come up with new dishes?
It’s a real team effort. We are constantly pushing for innovation and encourage the whole brigade to experiment. It’s lovely when junior chefs’ dishes go on the menu. It is an ingredient-led process so we invite suppliers in and if we find an amazing tasting beetroot for example, we will create a dish to showcase this.
Who was your greatest influence?
My grandparents, who taught me the importance of respecting the seasons and the wonderful produce that is associated with each of them.
Tell us three chefs you admire
Too many to mention but amongst them would be Keith Floyd, Elizabeth David and Pierre Koffmann.
What is your favourite cookbook?
The Constance Spry Cookery Book. It is a kitchen bible that was first published in 1956 and still contains invaluable techniques and recipes. It makes an excellent gift.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I’m extremely proud of my team and like to think that they are the ones to watch. My sous chef, Michael, recently did incredibly well in the UK finals of S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year competition. Calum Franklin of Holborn Dining Room has been doing wonders in the realm of charcuterie and pies and I look forward to seeing what he does next.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Core by Clare Smyth was the opening of 2017 for me. Her menus showcase some of the best of British produce.