All Things Italian
Watergate Bay, home to Jamie Oliver’s social enterprise restaurant Fifteen, welcomes former apprentice Adam Banks (of Star & Garter acclaim) as the newly appointed head chef
Q&A with Lara Protheroe
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I always really enjoyed cooking and by my third year at secondary school I’d decided it was the path for me. Although, at the time I didn’t appreciate how hard it would be until I got my first part time dishwashing job, but I stuck at it.
Where and how were you trained?
I trained at a college in Staffordshire for two years to learn the theory and I also had a part-time job alongside my studies at a local hotel to get practical experience in learning the basics – I still owe my dad the petrol money for picking me up from the hotel every weekend!
What is your management style?
I like to lead by example and think it’s important to be in the kitchen to help each member of the brigade as much as possible, whether it’s podding peas or plating dishes. I’m always keen to share advice on how to prepare ingredients and think it is important to pass on knowledge about the different products we have coming into the kitchen – this is what Fifteen is all about and it’s great to see our apprentices learning by example.
Do you have a sense of humour at work?
Always. Chefs spend so much time in the kitchen together it is important to enjoy each other’s company. Of course there are times when it’s intense and the concentration of the kitchen is heightened, but it’s only natural in a professional kitchen to take pride in our work. Happy chefs make tasty food.
Describe the relationship between the back and front of house staff
There is a great relationship between all the staff at Fifteen Cornwall; it’s like a big family. We’re a team of 80 people in total who work in or around the restaurant; there is a great sense of team spirit and camaraderie.
Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
There isn’t just one chef I admire the most – Andy Appleton (Trevibben Mill) and Andi Richardson (Star & Garter) I admire for many reasons. Andy encouraged my creativity and Andi instilled in me the importance of using the whole animal or fish, there’s no need for gimmicks in creating great food. I’m also a big fan of Gillian Riley and her book The Italian Culinary Dictionary. Its depth of information about Italian ingredients, regions, famous Italian food writers and general knowledge of food in Italy is invaluable; I always recommend it to our chefs and apprentices.
What is your favourite cuisine?
Italian, boring answer I know, but it is more diverse than people think. From region to region across the country the food changes dramatically, from the heavier richer dishes found in the north to the lighter dishes of the south. There are 20 regions in total, each with their own specialty cheeses, cured meats, pastas, festivals and dishes and within each of those regions the diversity spreads between towns.
What is an example of a springtime dish you would prepare for me?
A big bowl of minestrone soup with peas, broad beans, asparagus, baby gem lettuce, almond and mint pesto, topped with crispy pancetta. Oh and some bread for dunking. Or maybe some ricotta gnocchi, wild garlic and lemon.
How do you test the quality of your ingredients?
We are spoilt for choice in Cornwall, with a wealth of great local and seasonal produce. I try to visit all of our suppliers to taste the produce and take samples of ingredients to have a play with them in the kitchen.
When are you happiest at work?
As a chef I’m always happy with I’m cooking. That said, the most rewarding part of the job is seeing customers enjoying our food.
What’s your go-to comfort food when you can’t be bothered to cook?
I love to pick-up a fresh fish taco from Gilmore’s Mexican in Newquay.
What is your favourite part of Cornwall? And Italy?
It’s hard to decide! If I had to pick, there is a little cove called Tregardock near Port Isaac in Cornwall that’s a firm favourite of mine. In Italy the view from the top of the tower at the Petrolo estate in Tuscany is hard to beat.
Fifteen Cornwall has just announced new menus. The Sharing menu is designed for all guests at the table to eat together. Across five courses, diners will be bought whole dishes to share, starting with a number of small plates before moving onto an Insalata course, Primi dishes and main courses featuring large cuts of meat and whole fish for all at the table to enjoy. Dessert offers a whole choice of dishes from the Dolci card.
Our signature and classic Fifteen Tasting Menu is perfect for guests who want to embrace the style and expertise of the kitchen. This menu showcases our chefs’ creativity with five courses, two choices for Insalata and Primi and four choices of dishes for Secondi and any dessert from the Dolci card. We have bought more vegetarian dishes into the Tasting menu, with two of the four Secondi always non-meat or fish, tempting to even self-confessed carnivores.
Fifteen Cornwall and Watergate Bay will be hosting three night Taste of The Bay autumn breaks (allowing guests to dine at all of the Bay’s eateries). Arrival dates, Sunday – Wednesday between Sunday 17th September and Wednesday 11th October 2017.
Enquiries: Fifteen Cornwall 01637 861000 / fifteencornwall.co.uk
Where to stay nearby: Watergate Bay Hotel, double rooms available from £175 (B&B)