Eat well

Great food re­quires more than qual­ity in­gre­di­ents and ex­pe­ri­ence – it also needs care and com­fort, says Head­land ex­ec­u­tive head chef Christo­pher Ar­cham­bault

Cornwall Life - - FLAVOURS OF CORNWALL -

Christo­pher Ar­cham­bault, ex­ec­u­tive head chef at Newquay’s Head­land Ho­tel, ad­mits his path to be­com­ing a chef was not a tra­di­tional route be­gin­ning with study­ing English Lit­er­a­ture, Phi­los­o­phy and Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence. ‘I was a fairly wild young gun and headed to Europe for an eight-week back­pack­ing tour that turned into six years in Ire­land. It’s easy to fall into kitchens and I just kept grad­u­at­ing to bet­ter restau­rants. A bookworm since a child, I’ve read just about ev­ery­thing that per­tains to cook­ing and the life. My favoured food style has var­ied over the years, fluc­tu­at­ing with those work­ing around me or skirt­ing the edges of trends, or even out of sheer bore­dom of rep­e­ti­tion. I sup­pose my most for­ma­tive years as a chef were the five years in Lon­don. I made a point of eat­ing very well, that’s an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent in learn­ing… I’m also a keen writer and photographer re­lat­ing to kitchen life and food. I sup­pose at heart, I’m a writer that cooks for a liv­ing.

Mov­ing to Corn­wall has been one of the bet­ter de­ci­sions in my life. Hav­ing lived far and wide, this fi­nally feels like home.’

How would you de­scribe your food style?

Runs the gamut. I started out in Ital­ian-led, rus­tic food. The older you get as a chef, the more you draw upon the youth in your brigade, so for a time my of­fer­ing be­came quite tech­ni­cal, more con­trived. Now we’re back to more rus­tic. I like things to be clean and cor­rect with bold flavours. I get bored eas­ily, so even tried and tested dishes are con­stantly evolv­ing.

Who has been your

The mothers as­so­ci­ated with my up­bring­ing, my own and those of friends and girl­friends. In­cred­i­ble food when I was grow­ing up. French/Ital­ian in­flu­ences. The older I get the more the mind wan­ders to the flavours of youth. Top dogs that had an in­flu­ence in my for­ma­tion would be Marco Pierre White, Mark Hix, Si­mon Hop­kin­son, Thomas Keller. Very for­tu­nate to have worked with two of them.

How im­por­tant is sea­son­al­ity in your menu?

I used to be a food Nazi. Ev­ery­thing had to be in sea­son. You re­lax a bit as you age. It’s still im­por­tant, but in as big an op­er­a­tion as The Head­land… the rules need to be bent at times. Life’s too short to stress over eat­ing a rasp­berry in De­cem­ber. But of course, if we all fol­lowed na­ture’s rules, the earth would be in much bet­ter shape.

What is your favourite flavour/s of Corn­wall?

The crab. The for­ag­ing is also quite good when you can find time.

What in­gre­di­ent couldn’t you do with­out?

Gar­lic and lemon.

What was your most mem­o­rable meal?

When I was 25 I ate my first Miche­lin-starred meal at Pa­trick Guill­baud’s in Dublin. That was fairly life chang­ing: see­ing your re­flec­tion mir­rored in a per­fectly made sauce. Also, The Fat Duck. I was for­tu­nate enough to eat there when it had one star, then much later when it had three. The chance to com­pare the edit­ing and re­fine­ment process that had oc­curred in that time span was spe­cial. My favourite restau­rant is Chez Bruce in Lon­don. Matt Christ­mas is a proper leg­end.

What makes a great meal?

An ex­pe­ri­enced and car­ing chef is very im­por­tant; but this comes be­hind am­bi­ence, warm ser­vice, the right com­pany and a restau­rant that in­hab­its its own iden­tity. The iden­tity of a restau­rant gives you con­fi­dence to dine in com­fort. It’s an in­gre­di­ent you can’t put your fin­ger on or buy; you just know it when you walk in.

What is your food heaven?

It re­ally does vary. Al fresco I think, when pressed. Eat­ing camp­fire, bar­be­cue, my back gar­den or on a ter­race over­look­ing any body of water… out­side bask­ing in the sink­ing sun just makes it taste that much bet­ter.

What is your idea of food hell?

Heav­ily pro­cessed and over­cooked food han­dled by un­car­ing in­di­vid­u­als. You don’t need to have love in your heart to pro­duce de­cent food, but you must care and have pride.

What’s go­ing to be big in 2019?

Chefs. The in­dus­try is go­ing to be forced into big changes with Brexit and be­yond. Chefs will be in big­ger de­mand, and the pool will keep get­ting smaller. Menus will need to be more thought out, classic fine din­ing will con­tinue to wane, sim­ple, more ex­act­ing food will con­tinue to take over. Health­ier food – es­pe­cially with new calo­rie trans­par­ent leg­is­la­tion.

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