Chef’s hat on – it’s time to cook up a storm in your apartment’s fully-equipped kitchen. With everything you need at hand (we know, we’ve thought of everything), the hardest part is deciding what to make. Actually, we take that back, because this month we’re launching a series of recipes in partnership with professional chef, Chris Hale.
Chris made a name for himself by cooking his way to the quarterfinals of MasterChef 2016, one innovative dish at a time. And now he’s the Executive Chef of the award winning, Hepworth Cafe at The Hepworth gallery in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
We managed to track down globetrotting Chris, to find out a bit more about his work and to get a flavour of the recipes he’s created exclusively for the Roomzzz blog and recipe book.
Q: What’s your earliest cooking memory?
Chris: Baking with my mum at the age of seven or eight. I loved making scones with her. My mum has always been a really good cook – she actually runs a home baking company now but never used to. So it was baking really when I was growing up.
Q: On a side note, and this might be controversial, but which comes first jam or cream?
Chris: I’d go jam first. Purely based on which is easiest to do – it’s harder to get jam on top of cream, than cream on top of jam so it’s purely logistical for me. When I make scones I pipe the cream on top to make them look pretty, you just can’t make jam look pretty on top, sorry!
Q: Where did you train to be a chef?
Chris: I’m completely self-taught so I’ve not trained anywhere. My interest in cooking started when I went to university. I went to Birmingham to do Sports Science and when I got there I realised I was very lucky that my mum was a very good cook, and then I realised that I really liked eating nice food and if I wanted to carry on doing that, I’d need to learn to cook.
Thankfully, one of my house mates was into cooking so we played around and experimented with cooking together. We’d go to Birmingham market and buy random stuff to cook up. And then when I came back home after university, I went to Leeds market once a week and bought something that I’d either never eaten or never cooked with before. Over a couple of years I’d built up a really good repertoire of culinary skills.
Really looking forward to our next Pop Up Restaurant @thehepworthcafe Book before 31 January for £45 early-bird tickets / £50 after 31 January. Book online at hepworthwakefield.org/whats-on/pop-up-restaurant/ Pop-up Restaurant: A Taste of Yorkshire Saturday 23 February 2019 6-9pm Experience the best of Yorkshire food and drink at the next event in our popular series of special after-hours openings of The Hepworth Cafe. Created by our Executive Chef Chris Hale, enjoy a five-course meal – plus canapés and a welcome drink – made entirely using Yorkshire-based producers. This event is part of Wakefield’s Food, Drink & Rhubarb Festival. Menu – Canapés and drink on arrival. – Venison tartare with walnut ketchup, pine oil and mushrooms. – Yorkshire Surf N Turf: seared scallop, glazed pigs cheek, celeriac puree, black pudding crumb, pork scratching and pickled apple. – Lamb rack, liquorice confit lamb neck, minted peas, caramelised fennel, pomme purée and lamb jus. – Coffee, chocolate & salted caramel. – An authentic Yorkshire cheeseboard. Vegetarian Menu (vegan on request) – Canapés and drink on arrival. – Tomato tartare with walnut ketchup, pine oil and mushrooms. – Rhubarb & Yorkshire fettle risotto. – Cauliflower steak, crispy kale, minted peas, caramelised fennel, pomme puree and beurre noisette. – Coffee, chocolate and salted caramel. – An authentic Yorkshire cheeseboard. #wakefield #wakefieldfood #events #popuprestaurant #finedining #yorkshire #yorkshirefood #tastingmenu #foodie #specialoccasion #hepworth
Q: What’s your favourite cuisine to cook?
Chris: I often get asked about my favourite thing to cook or my favourite cuisine but for me, if I’m honest, my favourite thing to do is experiment. It’s because of the way I’ve trained myself. I like playing with spices so I’d probably say…well I go through phases actually…at the moment I’m really into Japanese food but next month it’ll be something else. I’m a cuisine fiend!
Q: You were a MasterChef quarterfinalist in 2016. Do you have a favourite or significant moment from the show?
Chris: There were two dishes that got international press when I was on MasterChef. One was my Indian sushi – that was controversial and I got a load of abuse on social media (which I found very amusing…yes there was a hashtag which I don’t think I can repeat). And then there was a dish where we cooked for the previous year’s finalists. We had to do a two course menu and I really messed up my first course, walnut gnocchi. Time-wise, I just ran out of time and it looked like a dog’s dinner. But I also created a dessert which was basically chocolate ‘soil’, banana ice cream, tempered chocolate and salted caramel sauce, which you pour on top. John Torode asked me for the recipe and two of the finalists got in touch later on and asked me for the recipe too so for me that was the pinnacle. It’s the dish I’m best known for now.
Q: You’ve created a collection of easy-to-cook-in-a-Roomzzz-apartment recipes for us (which we’ll be releasing soon!). Can you tell us a little bit about what’s in store?
Chris: For me, the thing about creating the recipes for Roomzzz was that I wanted to create something that’s really simple to prepare, with ingredients that you can get hold of really easily from any sort of mini supermarket. Quite often now, when you eat out, there’s such an emphasis on how the food looks. The taste almost comes last and how it looks comes first. Whereas, all of these dishes I’ve created, they might not look the prettiest but they’re really, really tasty. And they’re easy to recreate in your Roomzzz apartment while you’re away.
Q: Obviously we’re big into travelling at Roomzzz – have you ever travelled anywhere that’s made a big impact on your work or cookery?
Chris: Absolutely! I think everywhere I go has an effect, I always try and go to a nice restaurant or get inspiration by going to a local market. But most recently, I was in Jerusalem and Israel, hummus is a massive thing there, and it gave me an idea. One of the biggest sellers at my restaurant in The Hepworth, is the smashed avocado on toast but there’s a huge problem with the sustainability of our avocado consumption right now.
So I’ve taken inspiration from my trip and designed a pea and mint hummus to replace the avocado on our menu. It’s similar in texture and it’s really healthy. It’s a bit of a statement because it’s one of our top three sellers but I wanted to make this change. We’ve decided to set a trend now, rather than follow a trend.
Q: We know you love cooking, but we also know that you love being cooked for. Can you recommend any amazing restaurants near to any of our Roomzzz locations?
Chris: In Leeds it’s got to be Home. That place should have a Michelin star in my opinion. For me, it’s got everything. It’s modest, really well cooked food, and the service and ambience is really nice. The food is absolutely impeccable.
If eating in is on the cards during your next Roomzzz stay, be sure to check back on our blog for Chris’ recipes or look out for the recipe book in your kitchen.