Flash-grilled: Ben McKellar

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ben McKellar Brighton chef at The Gingerman

Related tags: Restaurants, Pubs, Casual dining, Fine dining, Chefs

Largely Brighton and Hove-based chef restaurateur Ben McKellar runs a total of five venues including fine dining restaurant the Gingerman and recently launched small plates restaurant The Flint House.

What was your first job?
My first job was a Saturday boy in a local butchers shop. I was paid £10 plus a joint of meat for Sunday lunch, which I sold to my mum.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Either Marmite or Cadbury’s Whole Nut.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Tough question but probably Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York. 18 courses of beautifully created dishes and top service.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Richard Corrigan because of his laid-back ingredient focused approach to food and - more importantly – hospitality.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I probably ended up in the kitchen because there wasn't much I could do!

What is your biggest regret?
I try not to look back because I don’t feel it helps much but I probably left New York too early when I was working there in my twenties. Another two or so years would have been a joy.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Mobile phones. They seem to be permanently attached to young chef’s hands.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
I think the bone marrow and parsley salad at St John is hard to beat for simplicity and deliciousness.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Simple, flavour driven.

Most overrated food?
Gulls eggs.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Apart from the odd Tripadvisor rant we have been pretty lucky in this regard. 

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
Tempted to say Donald Trump so I could poison him, but probably Anthony Bourdain.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Take your time to learn your trade and don’t be in a hurry to get promoted.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My knives.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Mostly Asian food with plenty of spice.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
Sunday lunch at home. I was in charge of the gravy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
You will make mistakes. Make sure you only make them once.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I have been very lucky so far…

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?

Tipple of choice?
Wine, whisky and negronis.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A dozen oysters, something with crab and the roast grouse.

Ben McKeller’s Gingerman and The Ginger Pig restaurants will be offering £20 menus between 4 and 20 October as part of  Brighton’s Best Restaurant’s OctoberBEST festival.​ Other restaurants taking part include The Little Fish Market, 64 Degrees and Bincho Yakitori.


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