Chef Q&A: Bob Tabvirwa, The Chequers, Fowlmere
12:17 03 January 2017
The head chef at the 16th-century coaching inn in Fowlmere, near Royston, on salt, surprising combinations and ‘illusion’ food
Describe your style
Modern British with European and Asian influences.
How do you decide your menu?
Our menus are influenced by the seasons and modern trends.
Do you use local producers?
We use Stickleback Fish Company in Welham Green for our fish, John Mowers Food in Hoddesdon for our dry store supplies and Burtons Butchers in Saffron Walden. They’re all based within 30 mins of us. We like them because the produce is great quality, they are consistent and reliable, and just nice people to deal with.
Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing and why?
I love preparing fish. It’s so versatile – there’s so much you can do with it. You can always come up with fun and exciting dishes with fish.
What ingredient is most important to your cooking?
Salt of course! Salt is the best way to bring depth to a dish, or it will just be bland. Too much salt can overwhelm a dish, so you have to use it wisely. Herbs are also great – they can bring various dimensions to a dish.
What’s been your best culinary idea?
My curried cod is definitely up there. It’s oven-baked cod with tomato and chorizo purée, spiced potatoes, shallot bhaji, curly kale and mint-and-lime yoghurt. It’s not something people expect, but you need a good understanding of the flavours you’re working with to pull it off.
Who did you train under and what did they teach you?
John Beardsworth, currently cooking at the Three Tuns in Ashwell. He taught me how to become an amazing chef! Listen. Absorb, absorb and absorb...
Prediction for the next food trend?
Food ‘illusions’ are really starting to take off. It’s basically taking a generic dish and presenting it as the base ingredient – a carrot cake plated to resemble an actual carrot falling out of a flower pot, for example.
What’s in your fridge at home? Pretty much nothing. A chef tastes at work, he rarely eats!
Favourite quick meal? Steak and salad.
Top three tips for amateur cooks? Listen, research and absorb.
Best cookbook? The Accidental Vegetarian: Delicious Food without Meat by Simon Rimmer.