myCornwall interviewed Chris Graham, Head Chef at the Butcher’s Bistro in Newquay.
In a professional kitchen, timing is essential. I found it to be the hardest aspect of becoming a chef when I opened the Butcher’s Bistro in 2005, having spent most of my life as a butcher. I made the switch as I could see that Newquay was changing, and even though it was a big risk, I now love it when the pressure’s on and you’ve got to send out dishes for 60 or more people – it’s a great buzz!
I’m often asked what my favourite meal is and my answer is always the same – I’m yet to eat it! Cooking for me is about trying new things, so I always say that my favourite meal is the one I haven’t had. My tip for cooking is simple: stay open-minded and don’t approach the kitchen with blinkers on. My pet hate is when people decide they don’t like things before they’ve tried them!
My earliest food memory is sitting on an egg box as my father delivered eggs all around Cornwall. We were a poor family, and I’d go out hunting rabbits so that we were not eating cabbage most nights! It could be tough, but it has meant that I’ve always felt very connected to the source of my food. I can also remember my mum cooking up beef broths. It was simple traditional fare, but full of flavour.
To catch fish for the restaurant I’ll head out to Trevose as early as 3.30am, and then visit a farm in Ladock to choose the best bullock for my beef. My passion is to keep the food as Cornish as can be and if you want to serve the best, you have to start from the beginning. All of our beef has a ‘passport’, which we have on show in the restaurant so people can see what they’re eating, and where it’s from.
I recently became a grandfather again, and it has encouraged me to wonder what the world will be like in another 50 years. I think it’s vital that kids know where their food comes from, and food education needs to start early. We often have families in from France and Italy, and their children are very much more connected with their food. I’ve had 8 year olds telling me how they like their scallops cooked! I think we can learn from that.
My food hero would be Paul Ripley – the head chef at Rick Stein’s Seafood Bar in Falmouth. When I was a butcher I’d supply him with meat, and no matter how busy he was he always had time for me. He really cares about his work and is a great influence.
I’d say that my cooking style is traditional. Butcher’s Bistro is like a home from home with a nautical feeling – a place where the whole family can come and enjoy freshly baked bread with such dishes as our spectacular Seafood Marinere. I love good food, but I love serving it to people even more. I want the world to know just how much Cornwall has to offer and to put it on the food map. If I can do that, I’ll be a happy man.
Chris’ Seafood Marinere
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
250g leeks – cleaned and sliced
¼ pint Cornish Rattler
250g cleaned mussels
2 large cracked crab claws
4 tiger prawns
½ cup shrimps
2 tablespoons of double cream
2 small fillets of Pollack
2 small fillets salmon
Preheat wok and melt butter.
Add garlic and leeks. Cook until soft but not brown.
Add crab claws and rattler. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
Add mussels and tiger prawns. As the mussels start to open, add scallops, shrimps and fresh fish.
Simmer until fish has cooked through, and then add cream.
Serve in deep bowl to share and enjoy!
26 Cliff Road
01637 874 470
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‘MEET THE CHEF: Chris Graham at the Buchter’s Bistro, Newquay’ is taken from our April/May 2012, Vol.2 Issue 11. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.