An interview with the chefs

Mary talks to Steve and Chris for newsletter no. 2

At Cardiologist’s Kitchen we spend time with local chefs discussing how specific ingredients and our principles can be showcased in their recipes. This combines what we can learn from clinical research and healthcare with the deliciousness customers should expect when eating out. Why do this? Well, we’re encouraging and supporting heart-healthy meal options for patients and dispelling the myth that healthy choices equals restrictive and bland food.

Last newsletter we featured the fabulous CardioKit menu at The Bunch of Grapes in Bradford on Avon. Now we chat to a chef and a former chef who has switched to a career in healthcare, looking firstly at their motivations.

Mary interviewed Steve Mercer, from Neston Farm Shop and Kitchen;

What made you decide to become a chef? I am simply fascinated by food!

Who is your chef hero and would you want to cook for them, cook with them or have them cook for you?
Well, I’d have to say Keith Floyd because I love the way he talked about food and it would have been fun cooking with him in France.

What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
I have a Big Green Egg outside our kitchen door at Neston. It’s one hell of a gadget and I feel very privileged to use it.

What useful cooking tip can you share with us?
If you do a bit of barbecuing at home then be adventurous and don’t cook ‘American’. Consider how all the cuisines in the world start with the basics of cooking meat over charcoal and try that instead.

What kind of food did you eat as a child? Did you eat your greens? My mum is a great cook so I ate well but it took me into my twenties to develop a love for vegetables.

What is your diet like now? I do a lot of experimental cooking at home now for my blog – read it here http://blogdementhe.wordpress.com

What food is your guilty pleasure? Fish and chips with curry sauce!

I know you visited Australia recently, what was the most noticeable difference about the food you tried there? Food in Australia is amazing and there are simply no rules. To be successful in the UK you have to fit a certain set of criteria but In Australia, if you are good then you are good! People are more open to things untried.

What could we learn from Australians about healthy eating? They are of course lucky enough to have the weather to live outdoor lifestyles. We should believe more in the fact that healthy food can be delicious. We seem to have a bit of a culture of flavour versus healthy, which is daft!

Many of us try to reinvent meals we eat on holiday when we return home. Did your visit change anything about your cooking? Of course, whenever I travel I tend to pick up new ideas or techniques. Australia has some amazing ingredients and I developed a love for Wasabi, something I haven’t appreciated in the past.

You have said that Cardiologist’s Kitchen inspires you. If you could make it happen, what would you like to see our project doing next? I think looking at cuisines from all over the world and to be able to continue creating inspiring recipes. If you need someone to travel to Italy to explore the importance of cooking with good olive oil then you know where I am!

Our ‘Cooking Cardiologist’ has given you the basic principles of a heart-healthy meal, so which recipe of yours fits best into our ‘CardioKit’ brand? On my new menu at Neston I am going to be doing a Shatshuka with spinach and poached eggs.

What would you make if I gave you beetroot, nuts, quinoa, kale and sardines as the main ingredients?
There is so many things you could do. Sardines should always be cooked simply over fire in my opinion. I’d then just want a lovely light salad and perhaps a pesto with the nuts and the kale to bring it all together.

What is the funniest thing that has happened in your kitchen at work? Funny things will always happen in kitchens. They are tough environments where laughing is a necessity. I once watched a chef trying to make a peppercorn sauce thickened with a little cornflour. She was getting more and more stressed that it wouldn’t thicken and then realized she was trying to thicken it with icing sugar!

Thank you, Steve.

***

Mary interviewed Christopher J. B Wild;

What made you decide to become a chef? For me, it wasn’t really a lifelong dream; it was a necessity. I’ve always liked cooking and experimenting with ingredients, but I needed a flexible job when I was starting university, so I started washing dishes. Before long I was being trained to cook professionally.

Who is your chef hero and would you want to cook for them, cook with them or have them cook for you? It sounds cliché, but I can’t get enough of Gordon Ramsay. His passion for food is, in my opinion, second to none! He’s a big advocate​ of simple food, so I’d love to cook him a classic Beef Wellington. I’d like to cook one with him too, so I could get some tips. I’ve always wanted to try his signature lobster ravioli, so if he’s reading he could cook me that?

What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
This is an easy one: the kitchen aid, without a doubt. This wonder of technology has made light work of the toughest desserts, and got me out of many a tight spot in the middle of a 380 cover Saturday service over the years!

What useful cooking tip can you share with us? My number one rule is ‘food doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to taste good.’ People who say they can’t cook are usually trying to run before they can walk, but keeping it simple and well-seasoned can make even a standard tomato soup absolutely delicious.

What kind of food did you eat as a child? Did you eat your greens? My family travelled a lot, so I experienced lots of different cuisines from all over the world from a young age, but the staple was Italian when we were home (or in Italy). Greens – I’ve never had too much of an issue and so I ate lots of spinach and broccoli.

What is your diet like now? Really hit and miss, to be honest. I go through phases of making time to eat really well-balanced meals, and others where I order in, or buy things I can just chuck in the oven.
What food is your guilty pleasure? Curry, and I know the curry I eat is neither authentic, nor particularly adventurous. It doesn’t matter how bad my day has been, a curry will make me feel better.

  
Why did you change career? Science and medicine have always fascinated me, but I come from a family of NHS staff, and wanted to do my own thing. I started studying Criminal Psychology, and that’s when I began my career as a chef. In a way, professional cooking made me fall out of love with food, so I decided to return to my first love, science, and undertake my training in Medical Physiology.

Has your new role changed anything about your cooking? Absolutely! It’s made me appreciate food again. Cooking and really feeling like I can take my time over each component is a joy that I thought I’d lost. I take more care to incorporate ingredients that promote good heart health, too. That’s become really important to me.

If you could make it happen, what would you like to see the Cardiologist’s Kitchen project doing next? Without question, it would be cooking live at an open-air food festival! Bristol and Bath have these and it would be a great platform to educate and really combine the science of health  wonderful food.

What would you make if I gave you beetroot, nuts, quinoa, kale and sardines as the main ingredients? Wonderful question! Sardines scream “summer brunch” to me, and the beetroot and kale are really vibrant and colourful! I’d keep it quite simple; grill the sardines and, with drizzle of olive oil put them over a nice salad with the kale, quinoa, and nuts (pine nuts, toasted) and a roasted beetroot puree. If I can add one thing, it would be a lovely slice of sourdough toast that the whole thing can be served on.

What is the funniest thing that has happened in your kitchen at work? There were lots of little things, but I always preferred the long, drawn out escapades. In my first job, there were two chefs that constantly tried to outdo each other with practical jokes, and they went on for about nine months. It started with little things like a gravy handprint on the back, or salt in coffee, but culminated with pouring a whole bottle of maple syrup into some brand new trainers, and freezing credit cards and house keys in a block of ice. Chefs really know how to exact revenge..!

Thank you, Chris.                                          

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