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Kingdom of Cooks

 

BOOK REVIEW

To order a copy of Kingdom of Cooks <click here>

kingdom-of-cooksKingdom of Cooks: Conversations with Britain's New Wave Chefs
by Andy Lynes

In 2014, I dedicated part of the year to travelling the UK talking to chefs. In truth, that's how I've spent every year since 2004 when I began my freelance writing career. But last year was a bit different. Instead of the usual collection of random jaunts to fulfil a series of unconnected commissions from various newspaper and magazine clients, I made a plan. I wanted to write a book.

I drew up a list of a dozen chefs covering as wide a geographical spread as I could reasonably manage. Each was either in their first head chef position or the owner of their first restaurant. The aim was to connect with a new generation of chefs who had worked for some of the biggest names in the business - Gordon, Heston, Jamie, Raymond (Blanc) et al - but who were forging a new style of British cooking quite different from their mentors. That list included Mary-Ellen McTague (Aumbry, Manchester), Neil Rankin (The Smokehouse, London) and Gary Usher (Sticky Walnut, Chester) as well as double Michelin starred chef Simon Rogan (L'Enclume, Cartmel, and Fera at Claridge’s, London) who is included in the book as a Godfather figure of the new wave of British chefs.

Over the last few years, my work as a food, drink and travel author, journalist and restaurant critic had brought me into close contact with a worldwide trend, a new culinary nationalism where chefs were rejecting globalism and rediscovering the culinary specialities of their immediate locality. I realised that I probably knew more about the phenomenon as it had manifested itself in Chicago than I did in Chester, so I made a conscious decision to try and re-connect with home grown cooks.

Working for the national press, there is always a focus on attracting the publication's general readership to its food and drink pages, rather than catering for the committed foodies. It's a logical and commendable policy, but one that does tend to rely on the same old names to grab the readers eye. While it's always a joy to speak to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall or Michel Roux Jr, it does mean that there is less and less opportunity for new, non-TV names to break through. On a personal level, it meant that I'd began to lose touch with a younger generation of chefs.

I was fortunate enough to have indulgent American editors who trusted my judgement enough to commission the interviews to be published on the website of the highly acclaimed Food Arts magazine. The magazine suddenly folded in September last year which was heartbreaking for everyone involved. It also meant that only half of the interviews were published in a shortened article form, but it was enough to fund my trips and make the self published book feasible without resorting to some sort of crowd sourcing which seemed a little over the top for what is essentially quite a simple undertaking.

"If you're interested in what makes chefs tick, you'll find this e-book fascinating"
~ Tracey MacLeod

The book is based on a very straightforward idea and has a simple format. I spoke to each chef for between one and two hours, going into detail about their careers, their approach to cooking and the business of running a restaurant. I transcribed the interviews in full (or had them transcribed, it's a tine consuming process when you can only type with two fingers) then spent hours editing them into readable text, extracting repetitious and broken sentences, removing or re-ordering tangential asides and creating a narrative.

From that emerged not only the individual stories of the chefs, but a very vivid picture of what it takes to make it as a chef at the highest level, the extraordinary work that goes into a restaurant dish and the sacrifices the chefs make in dedication to their businesses and their craft. Although the restaurants are varied - neighbourhood bistros, rural restaurants with rooms, country house fine dining and smart city centre joints - many similarities in techniques, ethos and type of ingredients emerged. The new wave love all things fermented and pickled, foraged, home made, organic and rare breed, all things exemplified in the cooking of Simon Rogan, whose name came up time and time again when I asked the chefs for someone they admired.

There is a very definite turning away from the elaborate games of molecular gastronomy where nothing is what it seems and evoking 'childhood memories' seems to be the ultimate goal, towards capturing the essence of an ingredients flavour and presenting in as natural way as possible, even if that sometimes means employing a range of modern, flash kitchen equipment to achieve that aim.

Researching and writing Kingdom of Cooks has been one of the most fun and rewarding projects of my writing career so far. Of course eating at all these amazing restaurant was great, but even better was getting an real insight to the people behind them and discovering over and over again what passionate, driven and wonderfully hospitable people they are. I hope I've captured that in the book.

Kingdom of Cooks: Conversations with Britain's New Wave Chefs by Andy Lynes is available from Amazon's Kindle Store, priced £2.99

 

About Kingdom of Cooks

New e-book Lifts the Lid on the Modern UK Restaurant Scene

Andy LynesAndy Lynes, the well-known food, drink and travel writer, has published his first e-book, Kingdom of Cooks: Conversations with Britain's New Wave Chefs. In a series of in-depth interviews with some of the most exciting, acclaimed and innovative UK chefs, including Simon Rogan (L'Enclume, Cartmel, and Fera at Claridge’s, London), Mary-Ellen McTague (Aumbry, Manchester), Neil Rankin (The Smokehouse, London) and Gary Usher (Sticky Walnut, Chester), the book details the harsh realities of being a chef, the astonishing hard work it takes to make it to the top, and reveals the secrets of creating delicious restaurant dishes.

Kingdom of Cooks is a must-read for foodies, professional chefs and anyone who has ever dined in a restaurant and wondered just what goes on behind the kitchen door. The interviews take the reader behind the scenes of some of the most famous kitchens in the country to show what it's really like paying your dues working for chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver.

The book also documents an important moment in the history of British restaurant cooking where the eclecticism first mooted by the modern British movement of the late 80's meets the locavore imperative of the 21st century to create a truly distinctive style of British food for the mid-2010's.“I've been passionately interested in food and drink for more than 30 years and writing about it for a decade. In my experience, there has never been a more exciting time to eat out in this country,” says Lynes, who embarked on a journey of more than 2,000km and criss-crossed the UK in order to speak to 14 chefs in 13 restaurants, and consumed over 80 courses of restaurant food in the name of research. “Although London is the accepted capital of food in the UK, I've literally gone out of my way to prove there is something gastronomically exciting happening in every corner of the country.”

The chefs talk about their careers, their cooking styles and the techniques and ingredients that help set them apart from the crowd. Individual signature dishes, such as Chris Harrod of The Crown at Whitebrook's suckling pig with celeriac, pear and woodland sorrel, are discussed in detail, and you'll learn everything from how to make the perfect pork crackling to how to use every last scrap of a fish, literally down to the last scale.

Each chef has contributed a recipe – these include partridge, burnt heather, celeriac, watercress and chanterelles by Ben Radford of Timberyard in Edinburgh; Neil Rankin's Smokehouse short rib Bourguignon; and salt-baked beetroot, smoked eel, lettuce and chicken skin by Stepehen Toman of OX in Belfast.

Contact details for all 13 establishments are included in the book, covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, making the book a short restaurant guide for readers to follow in the author's footsteps. Numerous other chefs and restaurants, both in the UK and abroad, are mentioned in passing, making Kingdom of Cooks an instant primer to the current restaurant scene.

There is nothing I like better than a good old chin wag about food and drink, and I realised that my work as a journalist afforded me privileged access to talented chefs,” added Lynes. “By documenting some of those unexpurgated conversations in print I've allowed readers in on some fascinating conversations they might otherwise not be party to.”

Kingdom of Cooks: Conversations with Britain's New Wave Chefs by Andy Lynes is available from Amazon's Kindle Store, priced £2.99

Andy Lynes is an author and freelance food, drink and travel writer. His work appears in The Times, The Telegraph and The Independent.  He has reviewed restaurants for the Metro and the Guardian, and is currently a member of the 60SecondReviews.com team. Andy is also a contributing editor to Seasoned by Chef's magazine, and food and drink editor of Zuri magazine. He writes regularly for Host, the pub and bar magazine, and The Caterer. As well, he has contributed to a number of books, including two editions of Where Chefs Eat and the Oxford Companion to Food. His second book, How to be a Chilli Head, will be published by Portico in May 2015.

 

Praise for Kingdom of Cooks

'Anyone interested in today's groundbreaking chefs should check out Andy Lynes's new book, Kingdom of Cooks' ~ Marina O'Loughlin, restaurant critic, The Guardian

'If you're interested in what makes chefs tick, you'll find this e-book fascinating' ~ Tracey MacLeod, restaurant critic, Independent

'Loving Kingdom of Cooks - interviews with interesting UK chefs. Much insight, for just £2.99' ~ Xanthe Clay, food writer for the Telegraph and author

'Definitely worth a read' ~ Simon Majumdar, Food Network host and judge and author

'The detail around cooking methods and ideas is so refreshing' ~ Tom Fahey, restaurant critic for Square Meal

'Insightful interviewing' ~ fine-dining-guide.com 

“Andy is a true professional. He cares about food, and likes to dig deep into the creative side of the whole cooking process in order to understand chefs and restaurants.” ~ Chef/restaurateur Simon Rogan

Andy Lynes is available for interviews, or to write articles related to the book. A PDF version of the book is available for review on request. His contact details are: Email - andylynes@gmail.com, or Mobile - 07838-299 589.

 

Kingdom of Cooks extract : Simon Rogan

Simon RoganRogan is a leading figure in British gastronomy in the 21st century, with two Michelin stars for his 13 year old Cumbrian restaurant L'Enclume in the village of Cartmel where he also runs the more casual Rogan and Co and the village pub. He runs The French fine dining restaurant in the Midland Hotel in Manchester which also houses his Mr Cooper's house brasserie. He is one of the first chefs in the UK to run his own organic farm which supplies his restaurants and his development kitchen Aulis has been the inspiration for many other chefs to launch similar facilities.

I interviewed Simon Rogan at Fera, his restaurant in Claridge's hotel in London soon after it opened in May 2014. Understandably, much of the conversation revolved around the new restaurant, but we did speak more generally about his working arrangements, his view on rolling with the critical punches and his ambitions for himself and his restaurant empire.

Q: What's it like having to follow Gordon Ramsay who was the last chef to run the restaurant at Claridge's?

A: Gordon was very kind to me. He sent me a nice bottle of Dom Perignon and a massive bunch of flowers on opening and Stuart Gillies sent me a bottle of Krug - they're flash bastards aren't they? If it was me I'd be sending them a bottle of cava or something, it's all I could afford!

I always said it would be a tough act to follow, we have very different styles I don't think Gordon made any secret of the fact that his other businesses took priority, and maybe they were left to get on with it themselves here, but it was still a great standard and it was always full to the rafters. One thing about the restaurant with Gordon is that he was an absolutely amazing success financially. So we need to get somewhere near that.

Q: Creativity is at the heart of your style of food. How difficult is that to maintain now you have multiple sites with long, multi-course tasting menus?

A: It's a massive challenge and I rely on my generals a lot more than I did in the past. Before it was just L'Enclume and things were always swimming around in your head and you were just trail blazing and things came easy, but now you've got to have a different head for each of the restaurants. I've got Mark at L'Enclume, Adam at The French in Manchester and I do Fera with Dan. These are all great chefs in their own right, so even though my name's over the door and I come up with the majority of the ideas, they are a great help in making sure that things stay fresh and exciting and different.

The old brain's started to slow down a little bit, but the food has the same DNA wherever it's served. Amazing produce, just cooked in a simple manner. It's not the same, but it's very similar at all the restaurants. I want people in London to still feel they can go to L'Enclume and have something different. It's very important and very difficult, but I've got a good team around me.

Q: L'Enclume was a very personal venture and now you're collaborating with hotels. How has that been for you?

A: It's been really really amazing. I got on very well with Tom the GM and the CEO and it was the same feeling as I had in Manchester and there wasn't a herd of wild horses that could stop this deal from going through. A lot of investment has gone into the restaurant and kitchen and I couldn't be happier. I value their opinion and I respect their opinion, but I am a restaurateur and they are hoteliers, we have a great healthy relationship. We have our disagreements like everyone else but we work them out and disagreements are there for a reason and you get to the right decision in the end.

Q: Do you think you've had to make any compromises working within hotels?

A: No, I don't think we have, I think everything we've done we've shared. Maybe the décor is a compromise, but I like it and as I said every restaurant has to be different, I want people to have a different experience. So I respect the fact that we are in Claridge's in a world class hotel with an amazing history and a certain style. The compromise has been met with bits that show that this is something to do with me, the bare tables, the flatware, the finishing touches are a nice mix of me and them. It's all been pretty much the same philosophy, sharing the same values.

Q: You and your chefs serve some dishes at Fera, is that influenced by Noma?

A: We're not doing it because Noma do it, we're doing it because we want to and we enjoy it. Noma weren't the first people to do it and they won't be the last. I don't want to be compared to Noma, I don't want to be classed as copycat. I do it at L'Enclume because I like people to know that I'm there and just to show that I do work, I'm not in London all the time and that L'Enclume is still very, very important to me. And whenever I'm at Manchester as well I go out. Not as much as here, everyone serves here and as the team gets better and more experienced there will be a lot more of the chef interaction because who better to deliver the food than the people who cook it. They're the most passionate about it and they know everything about it. People absolutely love it and we'll continue to do that.

Q: Why isn't L'Enclume on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list?

A: People are lazy, if they come to London they don't want to go out of London and why do they need to? Look at what we've got in London, it would take you years and years to sample London. It does grate me a little bit that people don't take the trouble internationally to come up to L'Enclume They say, 'Oh, it takes all that time to get to', but so was el bulli,so is Bras. All the great restaurants in the world, some of them are a real ball ache to get to, so maybe it's our roads or our rail network. Fera will certainly give me the international space that I feel L'Enclume has deserved. The eyes of the cooking world, the restaurant world are on us. This is a massive hotel, world famous.

L'Enclume should be on that list, I look at it and I think, come on. The fact that all the people on that list are in London, that's just the way it is. It's massive for business. Although they shouldn't take it seriously, people do. I think Claridge's have great ambitions in regards to the list because they think that's where they should be. For me I'm in two minds. On the one hand it would be great to be on it and amazing for this restaurant, which has a lot more chance than L'Enclume, bizarrely so, but then I'd also be sad for L'Enclume. If Fera is on it why isn't L'Enclume?

 

Simon Rogan Recipe

Cod ‘yolk’, sage cream and pea shoots, salt and vinegar rice

Cod ‘yolk’, sage cream and pea shoots, salt and vinegar riceIngredients

For the cod mousse:
233g salted cod, rinsed
200g whipping cream
87g potato purée
1 leaf of gelatine

For the yolk gel:
500ml vegetable stock
50g whipping cream
0.5g saffron
30g vege gel

For the sage cream:
250g sage oil
3 yolks
2 eggs
5g salt
5g sherry vinegar
7g Dijon mustard

For the salt and vinegar rice:
100g wild rice
Vinegar powder
Salt
Tapioca maltodextrin

To garnish:
Green pea shoot
Golden pea shoot
Rape seed oil

Method

For the cod mousse:

  • Bloom the gelatine in cold water.

  • Seal the cod in a bag at full pressure, cook in a water bath at 50ºC for 15 minutes.

  • Bring the cream to a boil and heat the potato purée.

  • Put everything hot into a blender, add the gelatine and blitz to a smooth consistency.

  • Allow to cool, then pipe into hemispherical silicone moulds and freeze.

For the yolk gel:

  • Place the vegetable stock, cream and saffron in a pan and bring to a simmer, take off the heat and allow to cool.

  • When cool pass through a fine sieve, add the vege gel and return to the heat and bring to the boil while stirring. Keep warm.

For dipping the yolks:

  • Take the frozen cod mousse hemispheres and push a cocktail stick into each one at an angle.

  • Ensuring the saffron gel is kept at 70ºC, dip each hemi sphere into the gel twice, in succession and reserve in an oven proof dish with the cocktail stick still in place, allow to defrost in a fridge.

For the sage cream:

  • Place the yolks, eggs, salt, vinegar and mustard in a Thermomix and blend together, slowly add the sage oil, while blending to make a sage mayonnaise.

  • Add this to a cream whipper and charge twice, place the whipper in a water bath at 50ºC and reserve.

For the salt and vinegar rice:

  • Heat vegetable oil to 220ºC and fry the wild rice until it puffs, drain immediately onto paper towel and allow to cool.

  • Put the puffed wild rice into a bowl and season with the vinegar powder and salt to taste.

  • Add tapioca maltodextrin until you have the desired consistency.

To serve:

  • Take the dish with the yolks in, cover with cling film and gently heat at 50ºC in a hot cupboard.

  • Place a spoonful of salt and vinegar rice in a bowl, carefully place a cod yolk on top, twisting out the cocktail stick, garnish with the pea shoots.

  • Cover one side of the yolk where the cocktail stick was with the warm sage cream and finish with rape seed oil.

Serves 6

To order a copy of Kingdom of Cooks <click here>

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