Regarded by his peers as one of the most talented and innovative chefs of his generation, Sat Bains is the chef proprietor of the two-Michelin star Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms in Nottingham.
Many chefs claim their passion for cooking started as children, but that wasn’t the case for you. Who or what inspired you into the job?
Well my very first inspiration wa smy mum. Coming home from school and us all sitting down to dinner, talking about our days, was something I really looked forward to. She’s a really good cook. Workwise it was a guy called Mick Murphy. I met him when I was 19. Up until then my knowledge of the business extended to the Caterer magazine but Mick had travelled and worked just about everywhere. His food knowledge was phenomenal and I think I single-handedly managed to empty his brain. Everything at that point fell into place and I knew I’d chosen the right career.
What prompted you to apply for the Roux Scholarship and what did you gain from the experience?
I really wanted a stage with the Pourcel brothers at Le Jardin des Sens. It was such a great insight into three-Michelin starred cooking. It also gave me the opportunity to visit El Bulli – themost iconic, gastronomic, avant-garde restaurant of the 21st century.
You claim your appearance on Great British Menu resulted in a dramatic increase in bookings at Restaurant Sat Bains. Are regular TV appearances therefore essential?
I don’t think they’re essential. I think they can help boost your reservations for a bit. But the day-to-day job of working together as a team – front of house and kitchen – to provide the ultimate service and food for your guests and the best possible experience, is the thing that hopefully will ensure your longevity in the market place.
What are your views on the new food allergen legislation?
I think it’s all good. Anything that helps make your guests feelmore comfortable when they’re eating out and anything that helps you deliver food that can be safely consumed can only be a good thing.
You have won many awards and accolades, including your most recent Special award from the Craft Guild of Chefs. Which means the most to you and why?
Every award or accolade we get – either in my name or the restaurant’s – is just such a morale boost for the team. Every single award has its place and means such a lot to all of us. The team are everything and there would be nothing without them.
We notice you are fairly prolific on both Twitter and Instagram. How important is social media to chefs?
We work really unsociable hours and, with the exception of chef events or awards ceremonies, we’re really all too busy to get much time to get together. Social media lets us share ideas, touch base with our day-today lives and sometimes just have a laugh.
You hit the headlines after personally responding to anonymous negative reviews on TripAdvisor and have been applauded by many of your contemporaries as a result. Why did you decide to take this action?
I suppose I’m just a bit old school. If I feel really strongly about what I perceive as a problem when I’m in a restaurant, then I explain myself and give the establishment the opportunity to amend whatever the situation is. Everyone is happy and we can all move on. I’d much rather do that than go home and start airing perceived grievances through my keyboard giving the business no opportunity to rectify. And some of the ones that appeared on our site were not even genuine. We were able within the TripAdvisor guidelines to get them taken down.
You got far more than you bargained for on your recent trip to Nepal. Tell us more…
It was an attempt to the North Col on Mount Everest and our expedition had actually gone through China and up via Lhasa to Base Camp. We were attempting the Guinness World Record for the World’s Highest Dinner Party to raise money for Community Action Nepal. This was the charity helping the Sherpa and porter villages that had been affected by last year’s earthquakes. After a few days at Base Camp I started to feel short of breath and was diagnosed by the expedition doctor with HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. The only way to relieve the symptoms was to head down again as fast as possible and that meant under 2000m. I also had to get my lungs checked for any damage and the closest hospital, which was one day’s drive away, was in Kathmandu. We arrived on the Friday afternoon and the earthquake struck at lunchtime on the Saturday. I’d just been given the all clear and permission to fly and had booked a flight out on the Saturday evening. That obviously didn’t happen. The whole earthquake was pretty unnerving. The first tremor was huge and the swimming pool looked like something was mixing it. I did go into the city centre that evening and it was really bad. Temples and everything I’d visited the evening before were just rubble. You cannot believe so much can happen so quickly. It was more luck than judgement that I was in that particular hotel and managed to get out unscathed.
And now for three questions that we ask all of our Leading Lights…
What are your three kitchen secrets?
Always cook for yourself; taste, taste and taste again; keep a nutritional element in your head when you’re developing dishes – is it good enough that you’d want to eat it?
What is your favourite ingredient and why?
Game – it’s iconic with the British Isles and the seasons and is naturally wild.
Please could you share your favourite recipe, along with your reasons for choosing it?
I don’t have one favourite recipe but this is one of my favourites. I chose it because it goes against the grain of traditional duck liver dishes, which can be very rich and sometimes heavy too. This is a very light dish, themuesli is savoury, the duck liver is a granita, fine beans for a bit more texture and apricot and cranberry for added sweetness.
Why not read of the rest of the September issue of Stir it up right here0