Chef of the Week: Chris Archambault – Executive Chef at Bodmin Jail Hotel, Cornwall

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Officially, just over a week!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
The mothers of my youth and eating itself.  From the Italian gatherings of my first girlfriend, to the French influences of my own family, the Russian flavours of my hometown and my own mother’s varied expertise…you eat something amazing…you want to make it.  Professionally,  I learned speed in Dublin, business acumen in London, finesse & balance from books and eating in fantastic restaurants.  Also, I’ve got to thank Mark Hix for introducing me to foraging, back when no one knew what the word meant.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Never a dull moment, glutton for the pressure and madness of a crazy profession.  Also, I like the editing and collaboration of like minds in a brigade.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic, lemon, quality fats….be they butter or oil.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
At home my Nutri-bullet gets put through paces the manufacturer never dreamt of and I’m a dab hand with a slow cooker/Instant Pot.  My Kamado Joe rules the summer.  In work, a microplane is never far from hand.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’m in favour of the return to simpler food.  Simpler dining rooms.  Less smoke and mirrors.  Emphasis on flavours.  I don’t mind someone being clever…but it needs to taste great and be there for a reason.  It’s also hugely welcome the revolution in UK street food.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Jumping the gun.  Due to us having to think so fast, move so quickly…don’t forget to be measured and thoughtful in your approach.  I speak from a lifetime of mistakes…

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I like the start of any new season.  It’s great to slide into the autumnal warmers of game/hearty fare, equally you’re so delighted when spring hits and everything is new, fresh, lighter.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
One that comes to mind was a cep mushroom marshmallow filled with Sauternes jelly, topped with seared foie gras and freshly picked and shaved Goodwood black truffle, married with a cep puree that really rocked the boat.  Sounds poncey, but really worked!

How do you come up with new dishes?
Collaboration, memory, editing of the old to bring in the new.  The flood of inspiration on socials is a never ending snake eating itself, chefs feeding off each other constantly.

Who was your greatest influence?
Andy Kress.  A legend amongst men.  Taught me a lot about the business and how to survive London.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Marco Pierre White, Thomas Keller, Matt Christmas, Simon Hopkinson….oops, four!

What is your favourite cookbook?
Anything by Simon Hopkinson, The French Laundry and Faviken.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
No idea!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Any restaurant that opens this year, has the care and skills to execute well-cooked food, and survives…deserves a vote in my book.