Flash-grilled: Chris Leach

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled Manteca chef cofounder Chris Leach

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant, Residency

Former Petersham Nurseries chef Chris Leach launched the recently reopened Manteca with Smokestak’s David Carter late last year, having established the concept during a four-month residency at 10 Heddon Street.

What was your first industry job?
When I was a student, I worked in a deli in Manchester called ‘Deli on Burton Road’ which is now ‘Folk’ where I did everything from making the sandwiches and coffee to cleaning the tables. My first job in the kitchen was at The Lime Tree in Manchester.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I’d be an illustrator. This is what I thought I was going to do before I started cooking and I still keep a sketchbook and draw when I can. During lockdown, it acted as a form of escapism - I filled two whole sketchbooks in that time when I normally fill two pages a year.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Whistling.

What industry figure do you admire most and why?
Gabrielle Hamilton - I think the way she cooks food, her philosophy, vision and approach to waste is clever and very inspiring.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
When I was at Kitty Fisher’s, a customer came into the kitchen and screamed at me, demanding to know where his steak was.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Hand-rolled pasta, nose-to-tail cooking and fire-cooked cuts.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
A personal review from my niece - she ate my tiramisu, spat it out and said it’s the worst thing she’d ever eaten!

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A spoon.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Spaghetti Pomodora.

À la carte or tasting menu?
À la carte.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
So hard to choose but probably either Noma in Copenhagen, or Bestia in LA.

Favourite fast food joint?
KFC.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Anthony Bourdain, Ralph Steadman, Marvin Gaye and Gabrielle Hamilton.

What’s your earliest food memory?
My nan making soda bread in Ireland.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Keep a notebook and write down everything, good and bad, all your recipes and ideas. I have found that really helpful and you can use it to track your personal development. I still look back at notes I’ve written ten years ago.

Related topics: People

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