Chef of the Week: Richard Bainbridge, Chef Patron of Benedicts in Norwich
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have owned and worked at Benedicts since we opened 6 years ago!
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for food and hospitality really came from my grandparents who are really the host in the hostess with the mostess, The way they would entertain and make sure people had a good time with always a full glass and a full belly was a real inspiration but also not being very academic at school and getting a job in my local pub and realising that I could watch someone cook something and replicate quite easily made me feel that this was the perfect fit.
From there I started to investigate into the industry of where the best places were to learn my trade so moved around restaurants to learn my trade. But places with significant value to me was working at the Waterside Inn in Bray where to me that was going to university I walked in a cook and walked out for years later as a chef.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The things I enjoy most about being a chef/owner nowadays is working with fantastic produces as you feed off their passion for their products as well as new companies and also the young people who join our industry from the chefs to the front of house staff, I get a real buzz from watching them grow and flourish in our industry.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Three ingredients I couldn’t cook without butter, butter and butter!
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
The kitchen equipment I couldn’t live without is my knife. We make everything from scratch at the restaurant its really important to me to have a good boning knife, a great serrated knife and a peeler with these three things chefs can really do anything.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment? Feed trends I’m spotting at the moment is the same as it’s been for quite awhile really is chefs investing into local producers local produce doing more and more seasonal produce and seasonal cooking but also simplifying their food to let the ingredients showcase themselves which to me is something we have done at the restaurant for quite awhile but it’s lovely that is now becoming the norm.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I think a common mistake that chefs make is thinking that they know it all from restaurant to restaurant, to chef to chef. You never know it all you’re always learning and that’s one of the greatest things about our industry. So for chefs being able to have an open mind and know they’re not always right and they’re not always cooking the best food is the best driving force to being something special in our industry.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
If I had to pick a season that’s really difficult even though I know there’s only four because each season brings so much to the table whether it be the autumn with mushrooms, root vegetables and game coming through. Moving into winter where you have to become more and more creative as the produce dwindles and to spring where everything is fresh, vibrant and exciting. The summer, when the berries come into play, as a chef I find each season brings new challenges and excitement.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
If I had to say which dish I’m most proud of it is a really difficult question to answer. It’s a bit like asking me which is my favourite child which I just couldn’t possibly do because each dish you cook and prepare you have a connection with whether that’s a fantastic game terrine in the middle of autumn to a beautiful spring dish using wild garlic and new season peas, but what the restaurant has really become known for is my nannies trifle that I won Great British Menu with in 2015.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Through my experience of being a head chef to being a chef owner you can be influenced by cookbooks and social media which can influence the way that you cook, but as I’m finding I have more confidence in myself and my food it becomes easier to write dishes because you know what works and makes you feel comfortable and also makes you create food that you want to eat. But like I said I have spent many years copying other people to try and find my own path and that takes time lots of mistakes and tasting tasting tasting.
Who was your greatest influence?
If I have to say who is my greatest influence I will probably have to say my grandparents for showing me the way of hospitality as a whole, Michel Roux Snr for his passion everything from ingredients to staff to produces to the customer was just mind blowing, also Kevin Thornton in Ireland who showed me how to be able to tell a story through food.
Tell us three chefs you admire.
Daniel Clifford, for his amazing food but also learning from the errors of his ways from being a young chef to now understanding the industry a little bit more. Tom Kerridge for creating a business that allows his staff to grow and has amazing consistency across the board and also one of the nicest men you will ever meet. Michel Roux for teaching me so much about the industry as well as just food and drink, a real inspiration
What is your favourite cookbook?
My favourite cookbook changes weekly on what comes onto Amazon and I buy next.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I always think when it comes to the new up-and-coming chefs to watch the ones on the newest series of Great British Menu because they seem to source out the new up-and-coming talent and there’s so many, this industry is exploding at the moment with talent and that’s what makes it so exciting
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
My favourite restaurant that is open in the last 12 months is a restaurant called Meadowsweet which is in Holt, Norfolk. A small intimate restaurant with a fantastic set menu, run by Greg and Rebecca, the most idyllic restaurant in North Norfolk.