Celebrating The Ollerod’s first Supper Club with Chris Staines this month, Chris talks to us about his favourites, his not-so-favourites, his proudest moments and his favourite thing about being in Beaminster.
Cooking with Ingredients that Inspire
“I’m inspired by whatever’s in season. When the seasons change, we’ll quite often just get some stuff in, taste it, experiment with it, create new things with it, enjoy it,” he says. When it comes to eating fresh, apart from broccoli, Chris ranks British Asparagus as one of his top ingredients to work with. “It’s the best in the world – and what makes it so special is that you can only get it for a short period of time, in Spring”. Chris personally likes it prepared on the barbecue. “I also love working with English Strawberries – pretty much for the same reason. They appear for a very short time and they are the best if they are served pretty simply with cream and meringue.” Scottish grouse and local seafood are another of Chris’ favourites to work with – especially when the seafood is locally-sourced. “I love the Portland Bay Oysters that we serve when they’re in season. They are sourced locally – and are absolutely delicious.”
Trend-setting and experimentation
Chris isn’t someone who conspires to following trends. “The whole beauty about running your own business is that you have full reign on doing what you like, and experimenting with new things.” For Chris, a large part of the excitement about creating a new dish is looking at the raw materials and seeing what you can do with it. “I try not to get involved with food trends – but rather focus on seasonal supply and looking at new and interesting things we can create.” And when it comes to loving to cook what you love to eat, Chris ranks a good homemade Thai curry as one of his favourites. “It’s time-consuming though – and I don’t get to make it as often as I would like to. But when I do, I love it,” he says.
One thing that ranks on Chris’ to-do list is to use more of what the team grows themselves. The kitchen-garden is abuzz with incredible herbs and vegetables and Chris dreams of doing even more with that. One particular favourite that has long-satisfied The Ollerod diners is the beautiful garden salad served in the summer months – created from the produce from the kitchen garden. “I’d also love to do more barbecuing in the summer, with events where people can get involved in the food themselves – one of the key reasons why we’ve launched the Supper Club; where I am the host, and people can sit down in a relaxed environment, while I cook, and then dine with them – and talk through the food itself, the ingredients, and give them a chance to experience food from a new perspective.”
Chef-life, and this Chef’s proudest moments
Since the age of 14, Chris has dreamed of owning his own establishment, which is why it’s no surprise that Chris ranks the day that he and Silvana got the keys to the then-called Bridge House Hotel as one of his proudest moments in his career. “It was our first step into independence. I’d worked in the industry for so many years, under so many incredible people who have shaped my career in many ways, but it was when we took ownership of this place that we truly took a step into independence. We’ve loved becoming part of Beaminster. I love the fact that you can just pop up the road and buy your vegetables from Anthony at Fruit & Two Veg, or pop into Nick Tett’s butcher for some great meat. With such an abundance of independent shops and traders, you’re inevitably always bumping into someone you meet. The community spirit is great and Dorset is just such a beautiful place to live, and we’ve loved becoming part of that,” he says.
So, while baked beans and tripe rank very low on Chris’ list of favourite things to eat (and cook), Chris finds inspiration from the freshest seasonal produce available enabling him and Silvana to continue to delight visitors at The Ollerod with something new and exciting, month on month. Whether it’s a new event like the Supper Club, or a new dish added to the menu – things never become stale or boring at The Ollerod. If you haven’t had the chance to visit yet, get your next meal or holiday booked in. And if you’d like to know more about the inspiration behind Chris’ incredible food, then book your place at this month’s Supper Club on Tuesday 19 March.