Ever wondered what it takes to become a head chef? This term The Bubble seeks to find out what inspires local chefs, what they value about their food and what advice they have for students who simply want to improve their cookery skills or who are even thinking of a career in the industry.
Our first interview was with Cellar Door chef, Chris Dodds who has had a varied career in some of the best restaurants in the North East, including Ramside Hall and Close House. Located on the riverside below Saddler Street, the Cellar Door’s unique location is certainly complimented by its inspiring British cuisine. Small and intimate, this former historic prison offers the perfect atmosphere for those special occasions.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My passion for cooking started while watching television programs such as ‘Ready Steady Cook’, but I really had the chance to develop this after I had left college and began working at Ramside Hall. I worked here for about 6 years where I learnt a lot about the industry.
Is there a chef that particularly inspires you?
I look up to Michel Roux Junior, but I wouldn’t say that I am really inspired by celebrity chefs. But working at Close House restaurant was an amazing experience, where I truly learnt how to create high quality restaurant food.
What do you enjoy cooking most?
I love making desserts and in some ways regret not learning more about patisserie. If there was a ‘Great British Bake-off’ for professionals I would definitely apply.
Do you have a preference for a certain cuisine?
The focus of my cooking is British bistro food, but it is also inspired by Mediterranean cuisine.
What is your opinion about using local produce?
Our menu changes seasonally and using local produce is an important aspect of this. We want to support the local economy and take advantage of the rich variety of produce available in the North East. For example, all of our meat comes from Haswells farm.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a dish?
A dish must be visually appealing and look delicious, but taste is always the most important element. It is the flavour which customers remember and return for.
What would you say to those aspiring to become chefs?
Experience is essential to success in this industry. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. I spent four years preparing the vegetables before advancing at Ramside, but it was worth it as I learnt the skills necessary to get me where I am today.
Do you have any cooking advice for students living out?
Take time to read recipes and make sure that you follow them closely. It is also a good idea to plan your food for the week, as it allows you to save money and use up leftovers rather than having to throw food away.
Why should people visit the restaurant?
Unlike many of the restaurants in Durham we are independent and are not just one restaurant in a chain. Both our food and atmosphere are unique providing the full restaurant experience.