Leading Lights : Bryn Williams

Hailing from Denbigh in North Wales, Bryn Williams is putting Welsh produce firmly on the foodie map. Married to Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri, Bryn is the chef patron of Odette’s and Porth Eirias, and executive chef of Bryn Williams at Somerset House. Stir it up caught up with him to find out what makes him tick…

Q: Odette’s recently reached its 10-year milestone. What is the key to success and longevity on the everchanging London restaurant scene?

A: Listening to your customers – the good and the bad. Also, never standing still – you have to evolve all the time. This doesn’t necessarily mean compromising or changing your style, just modernising it when needed.

Q: You have been hugely successful in bringing through an elite brigade of talented chefs. How have you achieved this?

A: I think because of how well I was taught myself – I’ve had a good grounding. It’s important to teach the core skills of the trade, and I wouldn’t want anyone to leave my kitchen without taking something worthwhile with them.

Q: Your restaurant portfolio features venues in an array of locations. How do you tailor your menus to suit each venue?

A: Porth Eirias is on the beach in North Wales, so the menu of course focuses on local fish and shellfish. Somerset House is a cultural hub for lots of forward thinking creatives, so a more plant-based offering made sense here. Odette’s has always been modern British with a classic backbone, which suits the neighbourhood of Primrose Hill.

Q: The menu at Somerset House has been described by the press as ‘veg-centric’. What’s your interpretation?

A: Veg-centric is a good way of putting it – fruit and veg are definitely the stars of the show. It made sense to go down this route – people are increasingly conscious of eating seasonally, reducing air miles and doing their bit for the environment.

Q: Much of the produce used in your restaurants is grown by your brother on the family farm in Wales. How often do you get up there to visit?

A: It’s very close to the restaurant in Porth Eirias, so I make it there at least twice a month.

Q: How would you describe the Welsh food scene?

A: On the way up! We’ve got lots of Welsh chefs now, all doing very different things, who are making their mark on the map – the Marram Gras boys in Anglesey, Machine House in Wales. We were chuffed that Porth Eirias got a Bib Gourmand in this year’s guide. Wales has always had the greatest larder in Britain and it’s great to see our restaurant scene beginning to match that, and also get some recognition.

Q: What is your career highlight to date?

A: Reaching the 10-year anniversary with Odette’s – the more my customers and friends approach me about it the more I appreciate how important an achievement it is.

Q: Which ‘celebrity’ chef has influenced you the most and why?

A: It would have to be Marco Pierre White – White Heat got me into cooking. He’s also a true chef, which lots of ‘celebrity’ chefs aren’t – there’s a difference between being a chef on TV and simply being someone who can cook on TV.

Q: What is your favourite meal of the day and why?

A: It has to be breakfast – if I’m eating it, it means I’ve managed to get up early, which is a good achievement to start the day with

Q: You are the Skills Ambassador for your old catering college. What advice can you offer to aspiring young chefs?

A: Decide what sector you want to work in – whether it’s hotels, catering, restaurants – and stick to it for at least five years. It’s important to chase experience rather than money, especially in the early part of your career

And now for three questions that we ask all of our Leading Lights…

What are your three kitchen secrets?

  1. Buy in season
  2. Make sure you taste everything
  3. Share everything with your team

What is your favourite ingredient and why?

Normally I’d say Welsh lamb, but at the moment it’s pedigree Welsh Black beef, grass fed from my farm – for no reason other than that it’s absolutely delicious.

Please could you share your favourite recipe, along with your reasons for choosing it?

Pistachio Cake. Quite frankly, I just wanted to put a cake on the dessert menu at Odette’s and, after a bit of playing around with a few ideas and ingredients, came up with this stunning, light, pale, jade green winner. I love to serve it with jug of cold custard on the side, or a scoop of apple sorbet.

For the full recipe click here