In a nutshell, vegetables are at the heart of what I cook! Completely dictated by the seasons, my menu champions local produce – focusing on showing the utmost respect to the people who grow the veg, and the ground it comes from. This is a huge part of why I love it – the challenge of a fast rotating menu, working with flavour and drawing influences from a huge range of cuisines keeps me incredibly stimulated!
I grew near Salisbury, Wiltshire, surrounded by the New Forest – I had an abundance of trees to climb!
I think for most of us it is always our grandma’s cooking. She used to make culinary skill look effortless. Simple things like sweet white sauce, prawn cocktails and trifle – food of its time which lives exclusively in my memory of her! I think it’s safe to say that my awakening to food came when I first visited Spain as a young child and tried rabbit stew, pescaditos, authentic paella – the list goes on.
I moved to Brighton about 6 years ago to study Fine Art: Critical Practice at Brighton uni.
My journey isn’t conventional! I started at Botanique as the sous chef – it was my first restaurant job. I had a wonderfully inspiring and knowledgeable head chef who I worked very closely with – she taught me invaluable lessons about running a professional kitchen, and gave me the confidence to express my culinary creativity. When she left just over a year ago, I stepped into her shoes and took the reins. I had the chance to completely change the menu structure and narrative surrounding the restaurant, and put my creativity to the test. Shortly after that I became chef patron, and the rest is history!
Music is a huge passion of mine, I grew up surrounded by jazz and musical instruments. I indulge myself in drawing & painting too if I can catch a moment. However, I am still new to this game, so my passion for cooking consumes my everything!
It’s so hard to choose one! Christmas Day last year was an absolute riot, and a chance to really indulge in the family we have created at Botanique whilst we couldn’t go home to see our families. There’s many anecdotes running through our kitchen story – the summer was absolutely full of laughs and constant bands of blue roll tied around my chefs’ heads to stave off the kitchen heat.
It has to be solo closing down the kitchen & deep cleaning after testing positive with covid at work last summer. I felt so incredibly unwell but there was a whole kitchen to put to bed before closing for 10 days (the virus wiped out almost our whole workforce). On the plus side, my GM tackled upstairs at the same time, and we listened to Graceland together on loop.
It has to be a really good authentic pizza – I don’t mess around with vegan cheese, I just enjoy the pomodoro, capers, chilli and rocket. Saying that, I think I’m more drawn to the experience for the negroni.
Ah the unanswerable question! Food seems to be a language that comes so naturally to me, so I always get stumped when I’m asked this – I used to feel very passionately about reforming the mental health systems within universities, and before discovering professional cooking, was determined to work in the public sector to restructure & change policies affecting these essential services!
The fact that often leaves people slightly shocked is that this is only my second year as a chef. I’ve been so very blessed with opportunity, and support from people who have seen capabilities in me before even I have. I pinch myself every day when I look around at what we’ve created. It’s equally surreal to be employing and training chefs/ team members who have been in the industry for longer than my whole life! I’m grateful for the respect I receive from the people around me despite my short history in the kitchens.
A slightly funnier one – as a child, I refused to watch anything other than “Animal Planet” on television – Steve Irwin was my absolute hero – I had to take a day off primary school when he died.
The obvious answer is a move further towards plant based dining – however for me, I think the trends will lie (especially in Brighton) in sustainability. Covid has highlighted to many of us how important locality is. Our individual impact on the planet is becoming evermore emphasised, and I believe this also applies to businesses, especially independent ones like my own. Soon, our guests will be choosing where they dine with these things in mind just as much as the quality of the food!
Aside from the obvious answers such as prosperity and longevity in my venues, I have always dreamed (loosely) of really playing a part in paving the way for plant-based dining. I want to challenge respected chefs to work with plants, to work with the seasons and to exercise their depth of knowledge in a new field of ingredients. Breaking down the foundations that traditional culinary practises are built upon, and rebuilding them with a whole new respect for plants.
I have just built an indoor hydroponic farm opposite Botanique, called Farm, which is my version of challenging myself and my chefs to work with a new resource. We are growing beautiful produce using water instead of soil, in an underground space – we have a zero mile production of herbs, vegetables and garnishes for the menu. This kind of practice is the future, and it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of it!
It is hard to put the passion I have for Farm into words. It has opened up a world of possibilities to me as a chef – to have any ingredient, however rare or difficult to source, at my fingertips, growing at any time of year, despite the seasons – it’s quite remarkable. I have always wanted to create a community of restaurants in Brighton, with chefs sharing their experiences and current inspirations with each other on a completely wholesome level. I think Farm could be a resource that many chefs in the city can use to access that special ingredient that they have been thinking about for a while. For me, the plant to plate narrative is at the absolute centre of what I do, and growing the produce myself is such an exciting new chapter – I would love to share that excitement with other chefs who I am sure value this narrative as much as I do!
I thought long and hard about this question and it has to be pickling liquor! Once you discover the art of pickling, you have a second world of flavours, textures, and ingredients throughout all of the seasons.
In the world around me, the people who surround me, their cultures, culinary practises and traditions. Travel is important too, but that is rare for me, so I settle for talking endlessly about food and ideas with the huge range of people I share my life with!
It has to be rabbit stew at the top of Montgó Massif in Spain. I must have only been 8 years old or so – we drove up this mountain in the old car of my parents’ friend (narrowly avoiding skidding off the dusty mountain road multiple times on our way up), and after a couple of hours, and many a seat clenching moment, we arrive at an incredibly traditional restaurant.
My parents used to encourage my sister and I to try their food – I can remember so vividly the excitement that I felt in my body from tasting saffron, paprika and tomato which had been cooked for so many hours. The flavour had developed so deeply that it has stuck with me ever since. Such simple appreciation and respect for fresh ingredients like those has really influenced my approach to my menus. I’m driven by flavour and simplicity so much that I am sure that this meal has had a very long lasting effect on me.
My obsession with a kitchen garden came from reading a book called “The Garden Chef”, with an introduction by Jeremy Fox. There are countless restaurants in this book which I want to visit. I couldn’t recommend that book enough for anyone who’s passionate about cooking. Very high on my list are Noma, Atelier September, and Restaurant Domestic. To be completely honest, the more authentic and simple the restaurant, the more I learn – as much as I aspire to visit these incredibly developed restaurants, I feel pure inspiration from the proper grass roots stuff!!
Ah this is a tricky one! I often find myself at Easy Tiger, as it’s authentic and the parotta reminds me of my time in Sri Lanka. Red Snapper in Seven Dials is always such a joyous occasion with friends and a bottle from Seven Cellars a few doors down. I also spend a large portion of my days off at Plateau for some natural wine and olives!
Published: 11th January 2022