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 kitchen and 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 years and 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.