Chef Gary Rhodes OBE: Internationally Acclaimed Chef
Gary Rhodes OBE, was born 22 April 1960 and is an English restaurateur and television chef, known for his love of British cuisine and the distinctive spiked hair style that he once wore.
He has fronted shows such as MasterChef, MasterChef USA, Hell’s Kitchen, and his own series, Rhodes Around Britain.
We had the opportunity to find out more about this incredible, renowned culinary artist, during his visit to Theatre by Rhodes at Vox Cinemas, The Avenues, including who he would still like to cook for, his funniest and most disastrous kitchen moments…….
What influenced you on your journey to become a Chef?
When I was approx.. 6 years old I begun to help my mother in the kitchen, looking forward especially to the weekends when I was able to spend as much time as possible cooking and baking. By the time I had reached 13 years of age I was coming home from school and cooking the family meals, simple dishes such as Shepherds pie and I discovered my true love was in the kitchen….much better than homework! As I got older, I became more adventurous, taking on the Sunday Roast and other traditional British Fayre. When I turned 16, I decided I wanted to go to college and become a Chef, and with my parents blessing….that’s what I did for the next 3 years, and never looked back.
Who Was Your Influence on Your Journey?
This was a dear tutor from college called “Peter Barret”, he was my very first culinary hero. What he taught was detail, precision, creating flavours, I learnt so much from him…since then there have been many others, such as the Roux brothers in London who have heavily influenced the quality of food in the UK.
You’re known as The Great British Chef, but have your travels influenced your style of cooking?
Travel opens up your eyes to the countless possibilities, I was originally taught French cuisine during my college days, and worked in Holland as soon as I completed my studies, and at that time, all the Head Chefs were wanting to do French cuisine. When I returned back to the UK, I started to think, what is British food? We have some of the finest produce in the world, but for some reason have a reputation of not knowing how to cook it, which did aggravate me. So I wanted to add a new edge to British food, look at old classics and see how we could give them fresh face and life. I don’t use a recipe book, they’re simply guidelines, I never abuse them, but try to add another dimension to the dish without spoiling the base flavours.
During my travels I’ve had the opportunity to cook in the Far East, Middle East, Europe, the US…..and sometimes discover a new twist, and wonder “now why didn’t I think of that”…but I take it and find a way to use it so my food evolves….cooking is a continuous learning curve, I can never understand when someone says they get bored with cooking, there’s always something new to learn.
You’ve penned over 20 books to date.
When I started writing back in the 1990’s, we didn’t have the same technology as today, I handwrote every single book, from start to finish…and then pass them onto to my PA and now wife to type them up for me.
What was your biggest challenge when you wrote your first book?
When I wrote my first book at 33, I didn’t want to get away from the rules, and the books became too involved, becoming almost a coffee table book, they were not about home cooking but sharing what I do in a professional kitchen. My first book “Rhodes Around Britain” included all the Great British Classics, and how I believed they should be cooked, but I received feedback that the recipes were quite time consuming so would only be cooked at a weekend….I learnt from this, and as I begun to write more books, they became simpler, instead of sharing what I would cook in a restaurant I would share what I would cook at home.
That leads us onto our next question….what do you cook at home?
You know it really does depend on the mood, but what I do love, and miss, are the fantastic seasons back home in London, so I’m heavily influenced by those….wait until May and enjoy the English asparagus which only has a 2 month harvest, so I take advantage of that, some pan fried salmon with asparagus spears and a little squeeze of lemon, and that’s it! Keeping it very simple, tasty and absolutely delicious. Living now in the Middle East it’s a little bit different, so as my wife and I meander around the market we decide then as to what we would like to eat.
You’ve cooked for many many people, from the Princess of Wales, Tom Hanks, Manchester United, The Troops in Basra……who haven’t you cooked for who you would like to cook for?
David Cameron I wanted to cook for when he was Prime Minister, but never had the chance, Bill Clinton when he was President and same with Obama.
What was your most memorable meal to date?
That has to be the time when I cooked for Princess Diana and Tom Hanks, after cooking all day, they invited me to join them for dinner, that was an experience I will never forget, I felt very privileged and thankful to have had such an incredible opportunity.
What motivated you to open your first restaurant overseas in Grenada?
Its still open as well ?! I was doing some filming there for the BBC, “Christmas in the Caribbean”, the island was non-commercial and the real Caribbean. I became good friends with the owner of the hotel, “Calabash” where we stayed in during our short stay there, and he invited me back to do some cooking the following year, and this continued for approx.. 3-4years, when we sat down and thought, lets open a restaurant here, permanently.
If you were stranded on an island what 5 ingredients would you take with you, and what would you cook?
Lemons….it works with everything (I’m assuming I can catch my own fish, and have spices available etc …), you can have it sweet, savoury, it adds another dimension to the food, its one of the most versatile ingredients available.
Cherries, simply amazing….Kentish cherries would be my little luxury.
Scallops, langoustine…those type of flavours
Game….partridge for example, it’s a short season, so if I could get it, I’d have it!
Its tough as my mood changes all the time with what I would like to eat.
What is your kitchen essential….not including knives.
Passion! If you have that true passion for food, an understanding and love what you doing, your hard work will pay off, the long, unsociable hours will be worth it.
What was your biggest disaster in the kitchen?
Well many times you’re trying a new dish, and you have the entire team watching you, and you get to a point when you just know the recipe isn’t going to work and its going to be a disaster….! But I think one of the biggest, worst disasters, that put a huge fear in me. I was 19 years old, working in Amsterdam, in a hotel that did lots of large functions. The Head Chef had asked me to prep 18kilos of French Beans, and all blanched for the evening function. So its taking forever to prep these beans, and I have massive pots of boiling water, and I didn’t want to be standing there all day, so I threw them all into the pot, the water went stone cold, by the time they boiled back up they had gone yellow, were certainly not the bright green the should have been, I had ruined them all! My worst moment, but first true lesson in the industry.
What was your funniest moment?
We often went to cook in other kitchens, and this one time we had taken on a couple of new chefs, one of these new chefs we put to work in pastry, helping the pastry chef with the desserts. So the new chef had to lightly whip some cream, and my colleague come over to me and told me to look at the new guy, he had a big bowl of whipping cream, sleeves rolled up, and his hand in the cream, stirring it………I approached him, and asked him to stop what he was doing, and asked what is he doing? He replied to me, he was following the recipe, I said, show me, he got the recipe and showed me where it said “whip by hand”..yes, he was doing it quite literally, but without the whisk in his hand ?.
Click [Here] to watch Chef Gary Rhodes OBE in action, during his visit in Kuwait
Chef Gary Rhodes OBE, is the brainchild behind Theatre by Rhodes, at VOX Cinemas, where you can enjoy a fabulous Michelin style experience whilst watching a movie of your choice…..for further information and to book, please click [Here]