In my quest to find out more about the food industry, I have some very exciting interviews lined up. This week I caught up with the acclaimed Head Chef at Jurys Inn, Newcastle, Matei Baran. Here is what he had to say about his passion for good food, competitions and what keeps him on his toes.
Have you always been passionate about food?
Yes, I think it is in my blood. Being a chef is more than just a job for me. It’s passion, a positive obsession if you will.
What can you tell us about Necta Salon Culinaire? What did you showcase? How much did you practise for that? Your Facebook photos look phenomenal.
Thank you. Last year I took 2nd place, two years ago 3rd place and this year I was expected to win. Everyone to whom I spoke thought my dishes were very strong. I think the judges possibly thought that my dishes were a bit too complicated, and I think we had different visions. It has made me stronger and next year I’ll go to WIN!
How do you keep your cool in competitions like Necta? What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter a prestigious competition, but is lacking in confidence?
I’ve participated in competitions for a few years now and not always I won. It is important to be there and to take part. It will definitely make you a better chef and will open up so many opportunities.
What inspires you in the kitchen and how long does it take to create a three course menu (starter, main, dessert)?
I think the ingredients are the biggest inspiration. Creating a three course menu can take five minutes or a few weeks. It depends on how complicated I want it to be. I do like to keep things simple and taste great though.
What is your favourite ingredient that you absolutely cannot do without?
I like fish, which is probably why l have it most of the time.
What do you think of AA rosettes or Michelin stars, which one would you prefer?
In my opinion they are two different things. AA is great food presented really well, whereas Michelin is impressive food, art and science on the plate (the latter perhaps not always tasting so great). With all respect I know AA places where the food is divine, and I know Michelin places where the food is not so good but with the modern techniques looks amazing on the plate.
What cooking trends have you encountered this year? Any new ingredients you can tell us about?
Well I’m not a big fan of molecular techniques, but this year I started to work with some molecular ingredients. Some dishes are really simple to prep and look great too. One of my favourite things this year was pig flour, which gives dishes a really nice texture and flavour. I made some sloe croquettes, which turned out to be really tasty.
What would be your last supper?
It would probably be something traditional from my country, cooked by my grandmother! 🙂
Are there any chefs that inspire you, or whom you admire?
Michel Roux, Raymond Blanc, Philip Howard, Marcus Wareing, Tom Kerridge are the best chefs I have ever met. Paul Clarkson, my ex-head chef is an icon for me. He is an amazing chef and gentleman!
Do you have any cookery books?
Hahaha, I have nearly 150 and too many to name!
To check out Matei’s delicious dishes, do hop on over to Jurys Inn, Newcastle. It was a pleasure to speak with Chef Matei, thank you for your time Chef!