Chef of the Week: Tony Beales, Proprietor of Beales Gourmet in Poole, Dorset

How long have you run your current establishment?
I founded Beales Gourmet in 2005.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Some of my fondest early memories are of spending time in the kitchen, cooking with mum. I then trained as a chef right here in Dorset at Bournemouth & Poole College for 3 years in 1989. I also worked in various local restaurants and pub whilst at college. I then worked in London for 3 years in 5-star hotels and Michelin star restaurants to get the very best training I could find. I then had an idea to write a cook book, so I travelled the world for 16 months taking notes along the way.

Unfortunately, the book hasn’t happened yet, but I had great fun working in France, Australia, Asia and Canada along the way. In 1995 I stumbled upon a career cooking on private yachts in the South of France which I enjoyed so much I stayed 10 years. During my last 2 years in France I had the honour of being the personal chef to the Queen of Bahrain when she was in Europe, which included cooking for her high-profile guests in Paris, Cannes and on board the family yacht. Now, I’m equally inspired to pass the baton and have great fun teaching my girls how to cook too.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
My two favourite elements of being a chef is the ability to be constantly creative, and the buzz that I get when we exceed guests’ expectations!

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic & Rosemary – because of my background cooking in the Mediterranean, and butter! These days, with the number of intolerances and special diets, we often need to use butter substitutes, but nothing beats a knob of really good butter! If I could choose a fourth ingredient, if would be an excellent quality olive oil.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Sharp knives, induction hobs (rather than gas) and a Wrap-master – to save the waste from too much cling film – much more environmentally friendly!

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
In terms of ingredients, locality and seasonality are still hugely imperative. Trends are of course ever-changing, but there has been a noticeable rise in those opting for a vegan lifestyle (in fact we’ve created two extensive vegan menus!). The other trend in event catering is the fondness for sharing platters of a rustic nature. We’ve recently adapted and put our “Beales Gourmet” spin on dishes like tapas, paella, “posh picnics” and hosting-a-roast (where each table has a roast joint carved at their table!) ; plus of course, the continued interest in informal wedding breakfasts like barbecues, hog roasts and afternoon teas.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
For me, a chef should never be seen in dirty chef whites or smoking in front of their customers. Personal hygiene is hugely important in our industry.
The other common mistake is for chefs to over-season their food. The customer should always be able to add more seasoning if they wish.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
The autumn months offer us some of the most sensational produce, available right here on our Dorset doorstep. Some of my personal autumnal favourites include New Forest Mushrooms, which our chefs serve on toast with a delicious garlic and herb butter. Damsons (or damson plums as some call them) are right in season in the autumn months, and they make the perfect jus accompaniment for our “Local Pork & Pumpkin” dish – served two ways with a smooth sage mash. However, it is in desserts that you can really have some fun with some of Autumn’s finest. Take the humble pears and sloe berries (picked less than 1 mile from our venue, The Italian Villa!). We’ve created a divine pear and almond tart which we serve warm with Chantilly cream, pear coulis and a sloe gin gel… Delicious!

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I love dishes that make a bold statement and are beautifully colourful and taste amazing. Our Eton Mess is a fabulous summer dessert, and our local venison duet (which includes a loin and a “venison pie”) is just divine!

How do you come up with new dishes?
I tend to look at what our customers want and then find the best local seasonal ingredients to create dishes around that. We are absolutely blessed to be based in Dorset, where we have an abundance of incredible ingredients. Our seasonal menus are packed full of Dorset lamb, pork, asparagus, strawberries, mushrooms, pumpkins and more! We also love to challenge the theory that event catering need be “safe” or “boring”!
I love nothing more than getting creative in the kitchen and finding that special dish which you just know is going to be popular.

Who was your greatest influence?
I was privileged enough to work with the legendary Anton Mosimann OBE – a true inspiration and the Godfather of “Cuisine naturelle”. I’ve also been very lucky to work in some incredible kitchens around the world, each of which taught me something new and exciting.

Tell us three chefs you admire
For me, it has to be Michael Caines (for what he’s achieved despite his disability), Marco Pierre White and Clare Smyth.

What is your favourite cookbook?
In truth, I’ve had so many over the years, I couldn’t possibly choose just one!

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I really like what Jan Bretschneider and his wife, Stacey, have created with Restaurant Roots in Southbourne. Their concept really works, as it focuses on tasting menus rather than an a la carte experience. Highly recommended!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
One of my favourite experiences in 2018 was launching our FOODIE Fine Dining Society. We’ve hosted two incredible events thus far under the FOODIE banner, both of which have been eight course tasting menus, with every course paired perfectly with a stunning wine. In March, we’re looking forward to hosting a FOODIE event that celebrates the very best Dorset wine, cheese and charcuterie!
We’ve also got our eye on Zim Braai – founded by Andy Lennox (Founder of Koh Thai Tapas), his new restaurant concept focuses on dishes from across Southern Africa.