Pearls of Wisdom: Sat Bains

By William Drew

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Want, Chef

A first time head chef at 24, Sat Bains is now chef-owner of Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham
A first time head chef at 24, Sat Bains is now chef-owner of Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham
Recognised as one of the country’s most creative chefs, the notorious Nottingham-based Bains isn’t getting any quieter.

This is a job you can feel really passionate about​, and you shouldn’t keep that passion inside. There’s no point in being a tortured genius.

Chefs are notorious for being bad businessmen​, but I love that side of things. And I have an obligation to my 22 staff. I’m very strict with budgeting – these guys need to know what GP is.

I only went to catering college because there were loads of girls on the course.​ Then I read Escoffier at 21 and became fascinated by it. I was intoxicated by the old French recipes and ingredients. It inspired me to get off my arse.

Last year we built a development kitchenand it’s shocking what a difference it has made.​ It gives us time to develop a dish slowly and plot where and when it’s going on the menu. It means customers are not guinea pigs.

Opt for more restraint;​ take two elements off a dish and make it more pure.

Our location might not be the best, but I love it.​ We’ve got a dish called NG7, our postcode, with all the ingredients sourced from along the river here. It’s a little bit of a ‘fuck you’ dish to those people who slag off where we are.

I was a head chef at 24 – way too young!​ Those were my rock ’n’ roll years because I’d just read Marco’s [Pierre White] White Heat​.

We are flavour-driven​, not technique-driven.

We often have the waiters doing a stage ​in the kitchen​, then they know how it works.

For the heats of the Roux Scholarship​ [which Bains won in 1999], I went down to London with the whole kitchen in my old Citroën ZX. It was February, so I used it as a fridge overnight. But I knew I had to win in order to get a chance to work in France.

I’m in the kitchen every service​, but my role is more as a conductor now. My boys are in place and all I do now is cause trouble!

Fred [Sirieix] from Galvin at Windows has made a massive impact​. That’s what we need: some larger than life characters front-of-house, not just in the kitchen.

I don’t want to be in vogue.​ You want a trendless restaurant based on taste – for people to say: “Wow! How the hell did you get that leek to taste even more of leek?”

There’s nothing worse than snooty sommeliers​. I want front-of-house to have energy and kapow and character.

I came off the stove recently after 10 yearsand it nearly killed me!​ I thought cheffing was all about getting your head down, but you don’t see fuck all. Now I’m on the pass and I see everything – 360°.

Heston [Blumenthal] is an inspiration​, a self-taught genius. He’s achieved so much, yet he’s one of the most humble guys I know.

Set out your personal plan for five and 10 years​, write it down and review it every six months. If you’re not on track, identify what you need to do. It keeps you disciplined.

I’d love to open a modern British tapas restaurant​. And if that worked, I’d like to take it overseas – Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore. I’m not trying to take over the world, just a little outpost or two.

I enjoy life and it should be taken with a pinch of salt​. We’re not saving lives, we’re feeding people.

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Pearls of Wisdom

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