CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Chef Q&A: James Chapman, Sopwell House

PUBLISHED: 11:06 30 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:26 30 October 2013

Roasted Boudin of pistachio, Sopwell House

Roasted Boudin of pistachio, Sopwell House

Archant

The executive head chef at the St Albans restaurant gives an insight to his work

How would you describe your style? Modern British and European with simple cooking techniques using international and local produce in season. Freedom to create with a positive attitude towards new ideas. Presentation of food should be simple with clean lines and not over garnished.

.

How do you decide your menu? By great seasonal produce in conjunction with customer demands, market trends and my experience of what works.

.

Do you use Hertfordshire producers? I do use produce from local producers when available. We use scented oils, goat’s cheese, meat and vegetables. The quality makes a difference and I think it’s important to support local business and the environment where possible.

.

Which dish on your menu do you most enjoy preparing? My char-grilled rib eye steak with pomme pont neuf and a really good béarnaise sauce. Crisp chips, the steak which melts in the mouth and complimented with a good glass of Melbac. Such a simple dish but the flavours are perfect.

.

What ingredient is most important to your cooking? I don’t have a single most important ingredient. The most important thing is the daily sourcing of fresh meat, fish and vegetables. You cannot go wrong if your product is fresh, whether from land, sea or air.

.

What’s been your best culinary idea? I introduced slow cooking techniques for confits and braising using a thermodyn hydrator. It also can do air dried fruits and meringues and as a holding mat for cooked meats and keeps it at the perfect temperature - rare, medium or well-done.

.

Who did you train under and what did they teach you? I was trained by some excellent lecturers at Highbury college who started me in my career. In London I was trained at the Café Royal by a French chef called Ives Farouz, who attained two Michelin stars in France. He developed my passion and expanded my culinary knowledge vastly. The second great chef I worked for, Anthony Marshall, taught me self-discipline and organisation on a large scale and taught me about consistency and creativity. A fantastic mentor over the years.

.

What is your prediction for the next food trend and why? I think classic dishes will return. I always feel that food is like clothes and fashion – they always make a comeback over the years..Quick grill

What’s in your fridge at home? Sun blushed tomato, mature cheddar, aged air-dried ham, virgin olive oil, semi-skimmed milk, British asparagus, chorizo sausages (wife’s favourite!), lean bacon, red onions, Spanish white onions, English strawberries, pink lady apples, Jersey royals, crisp cos lettuce, beets and cucumbers - no naughty stuff (on a strict diet.)

.

Favourite quick meal? Tossed salad with everything I can use up. In the old days, with warm crisp bacon and chorizo finished with a little olive oil and reduced balsamic, now to be healthier without the chorizo or bacon.

.

Top three tips for amateur chefs? Plan, prepare and plenty of patience.

Best ever cookbook? Escoffier, Larousse Gastronomique

0 comments

Most Read

Latest from the Hertfordshire