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We Grill – Steve Smith

At 24, Steve Smith was one of the youngest head chefs to win a Michelin star. He earned Jersey’s Bohemia restaurant its first star after just eight months heading up the kitchen and stays true to his belief that ingredients are the key to a successful restaurant.

How would you describe Bohemia?

It’s one of Jersey’s finest dining establishments. Just a stone’s throw from the beach, Bohemia oozes style with its chic surroundings and vibrant bar, but ultimately it is a food- led restaurant that is based around quality, seasonal ingredients.  We don’t have a specific style; we’re not modern British or European, but original. I jumped at the chance to come to Bohemia – well Jersey – because I knew we’d have access to fantastic ingredients and produce. We have wonderful seafood on our doorstep and thanks to the ideal location we are spoilt for choice between local, French and British produce. For example our fresh oysters come from Royal Bay and we are home to the famous Jersey Royal Potato. We are very lucky.

Describe your menu…

As well as a classic menu, we have a seven course tasting menu, which also includes a pescatarian and vegetarian option too.  We get a lot of customers who don’t eat meat and others who only eat fish, plus others with dietary requirements, so it actually makes life a lot easier having menus already prepared that they can eat, rather than having to make something from scratch.  And in fact, the pescatarian menu sells just as well as the  normal one!

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

We’ll have a taster menu on for lunch and dinner all weekend. We never plan too far ahead for an event in case what we have promised on the menu – namely fish – we don’t catch! But we will be featuring oysters and of course chocolate! We will be serving Royal Bay oyster with cucumber and fennel and the dessert will be chocolate, caramel and yuzu using 66% chocolate and salted caramel.

What’s your signature dish?

During the summer it is Girolle mushroom, sweetcorn and local lobster cooked in smoked butter served with lobster bisque with lime and vanilla flavours. Our staple dish is roasted scallops with celeriac truffle, apple, smoked eel and a truffle vinaigrette. It’s a dish that marries tradition with innovation to create dishes of  real sophistication. Highlight of your

Highlight of your career?

There have been loads of things really, but I suppose winning  a star for Bohemia in such a short space of time has been one;  in fact, each time I won a star was a catalyst really. So many things have happened but what is always rewarding is watching employees I’ve trained and worked alongside go on to somewhere else because they are doing so well.

Where did your love of food come from?

I’ve always liked to eat! I can’t pinpoint it to one thing I just know it started from enjoying family meals. It could have been a nice salad at my Gran’s or a Sunday roast but the whole concept around cooking, eating and enjoyment struck a chord with me.

What is your career history?

I was born in the Midlands where I went to catering college then headed straight to Gordleton Mill in Hampshire to work under Jean  Christophe Novelli where I won my first star aged 24. I also worked with him at the Four Seasons in London. If I’m honest,  if I hadn’t experienced such enthusiasm and talent from him I’m not sure if I would have been as keen to stay! I was lucky to have him as a mentor and after becoming head chef, in 2001 I moved to Melbourne, Australia as head Chef of Le Restaurant where I achieved my two ‘Hats’ and won Australian Restaurant of the Year. I returned to the UK and went on to Holbeck Ghyll in Cumbria, Seaham Hall in County Durham and most famously The Burlington at the Devonshire Arms Hotel where I regained the restaurant’s Michelin star and won 4 AA Rosettes making it the most rated restaurant in Yorkshire in 2009–2013. In January 2013 I took up the challenge and set sail to the Channel Islands!

What ingredients will you be using in January and February?

In the cold water, langoustines or scallops. We will also be using  a lot of partridge, venison, suckling pork, boar and hare.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?

I have two! The L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris and Tapas 24  in Barcelona. The atmosphere at Tapas 24 is always buzzing and you can guarantee there will be a queue to get in but it is worth it!  The food is cheap, you can enjoy tapas dishes with cava for under 30 euros. Both restaurants have a very different style; but serve very tasty food.

Hobbies outside the kitchen?

I play a bit of squash, run and cycle as I’m trying to keep a little bit fitter than before. I like walking the dogs and do a bit of reading.

What advice would you give to a young, ambitious chef?

Above everything, work hard. Try and buy the best ingredients you can afford. So buy a better quality chicken or piece of fish if you can, because the key is the ingredients. If you buy substandard ones that’ll be reflected on your customer’s plate. Eat your own dishes and be self critical. If you aren’t sure, then change it. You can improve a dish by eating it yourself twice.

 

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