Chef of the Week: Sophie Hyam, Chef Patron at Sophie’s Culinary Bites in The Midlands

How long have you worked at your current restaurant? 
My private dining an catering business was born in April 2019.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion came from my parents who were wonderful cooks. They encouraged me to cook from an early age using seasonal produce and food that had been foraged, caught or shot. My trade was learnt at South Warwickshire College of further education in Stratford-upon-Avon studying culinary skills, hospitality and business management at City & Guilds & higher levels.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Creativity and Inventiveness in your role as a chef, variety on a daily basis. Cooking with the seasons using locally sourced produce and supporting small independent businesses who supply quality ingredients. Making people happy with my food and being successful.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, butter and garlic.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My knives. I use Japanese knives Sakuto and Flint & Flame. It is worth investing in a good quality chef knife because they are the backbone to every dish.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not learning the basics. Once you have mastered the basics of sauce making, cooking techniques, pastry – all can be built on with flavour and ingredients but you need to know the fundamentals of cooking to go to the next level.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn – when game season begins. As a child I used to go with my Dad on shoots – pheasants and rabbits so it’s comforting when the season comes around, reminiscing about eating them and creating wonderful meals.

Also I love the seasonal root vegetables like carrots, squash, pumpkin and sweet potato – all under used in my opinion but you can make sublime soups with these ingredients. Velvety, smooth, full of flavour and taking them to the next level taste wise by adding flavour bombs like chilli, coconut, cumin, pine nuts, scallops- the list goes on! I also love leeks and marrow.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Confit duck rissoles & horseradish gel on a bed of sautéed greens, with a rich honey duck jus. It was my winning dish when I took part in a live cooking competition at Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park in Leamington Spa. Judges were Nigel Barden and Candice Brown. Whittled down to three competitors I was up against two formidable male chefs, but took the title of Casual Dining Chef of the Year for Coventry & Warwickshire.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Look at seasonal produce available and plan the dish according to what/what you are cooking for – private dining, street food, starter, that type of thing. Experiment and practice with fusion flavours before finalising a dish. Be bold.

Who was your greatest influence?
My parents – simple as that.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
I adore classic French cuisine so it has to be the wonderful Raymond Blanc – self taught Michelin star chef, Michel Roux Jnr – coming from the Roux dynasty who changed the food scene in the UK, and the formidable Anne-Sophie Pic named the best female chef by the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2011 and only the 4th female chef to hold 3 Michelin stars.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Too Many Chiefs, Only One Indian by Sat Bains – a piece of art & inspiring.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Orelle in Birmingham – a modern French restaurant situated on the 24th floor of the building with panoramic views of the city and outstanding food.