Chef of the Week: Richard Wainman, Chef Patron at Dick’s Smokehouse in Bromsgrove

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have owned Dick’s Smokehouse for 7 years. 4 years in street food and 3 years as a restaurant.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
It’s a cheesy reason… but I was on holiday and was reading Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography, and the way he described being a chef had me intrigued. I pulled out of university and applied for a catering course. I was hooked from there.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
There’s a huge amount I enjoy about being a chef. Firstly it’s being able to turn ingredients into wonderful tasting dishes. The trial & error of working on new dishes is massively satisfying. The joy you get to see & hear from customers enjoying the food you cook. And I think the most is the family values you get at each restaurant. You spend so much of your life with the same people every week, you all become big parts of each other’s lives.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldnt you live without?
It has to be my smokers. Cooking is different to a normal oven. You must learn how the flames react and adapt to them all the time. Cooking over coal adds such a special flavour to any food. It’s very different to just turning on an oven and cooking.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I think with the current economy, chefs are trying to utilise cheaper ingredients and make them a featured dish. It’s great to see more dishes with offal being used again, and cuts of meat that haven’t been used for a long time. I also think a lot more restaurants are aiming for more informal dining.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Copying other chefs. A chef should always cook what they want to cook. Not want others are cooking. By all means use other chefs as inspiration but make the dish your own!

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Spring is a great time. We’ve all been using root vegetables and hearty meals for a few months, and the spring greens and lighter dishes are a warm welcome.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Our ribs will always stand pride on our menu, they’re what customers travel all over the country for. We also have a lovely goat’s cheese & beetroot dish, that customers beg us to put on during the winter.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Social media is a great way of seeing what people are cooking and discovering new ingredients. We don’t just throw new dishes together. We play around with them until we’re happy with it. We will experiment with different spices & sauces and see what type of cooking over coal works best. Some dishes only require light smoke, and others can take stronger smoke flavours.

Who was your greatest influence?
I’ve always found the chefs who I’ve been working for to be my greatest influence. They are willing to give their time to make you a better chef and help shape your career. I have a bible of recipes all provided by my past head chefs!

Tell us three chefs you admire.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Out of the hundreds of books I have, I always find myself flicking through Thomas Keller’s books.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Stuart Deeley and Tom Shepherd.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
The Wildmoor Oak in Bromsgrove. It has been a great addition to the restaurant scene in the area.