Who has been your inspiration?
My mum. She raised my sister and I whilst holding down multiple jobs. She’s started business ventures and has succeeded in everything she’s set out to do. Watching her as I grew up made me realise the importance of hard work and dedication. Have I mentioned she’s also an amazing cook?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far?
Probably that you can’t do everything yourself. I’m a control freak and I want things done “my way”. Copper & Ink wouldn’t be the restaurant it is without great people. Know your limitations and stick to your strengths.
What was your favourite and least favourite part of Masterchef?
Meeting the people on the show was the best part. I’ve made friends for life and in meeting these chefs, I’ve improved my own cooking ability. The one thing no-one prepares you for is the filming process. There’s a lot of sitting around, waiting for things to be set up, a lot of interviews to camera, and countless “slow walks”. If you can handle that, the cooking is easy!
What’s the new restaurant like?
It’s a relaxed, fine-dining restaurant. We serve a monthly changing seasonal menu, offering both a la carte items and a five-course taster menu. Where we differ is in our delivery. We’re informal, accessible and generally don’t take ourselves too seriously. The restaurant is also named after Becky who has copper coloured hair and is covered in ink.
What’s the most popular dish?
We had a king oyster mushroom dish that proved extremely popular. The mushroom was cooked in garlic and rosemary and served on a red quinoa risotto, with Parmesan and truffle and finished with shaved black truffle and crispy kale.
What can we expect to see next from Copper & Ink?
We opened in a rush to make sure we didn’t miss Christmas. As such, the restaurant is only half open. In a few weeks we launch our additional dining room, which overlooks the pass. We have a lovely round chef’s table right in front of the kitchen, with a view of the action from all tables. I think it’s going to bring something new to the dining experience and will hopefully inspire the chefs.
Where does your inspiration come from when creating dishes?
For me it’s all about the ingredients. They have to be the star of the show and must be treated with respect. I’ll use my produce in various ways, smoking, curing, dehydrating and roasting, amongst other techniques. I’m always amazed at how many flavours you can get from one ingredient. I still get inspiration from the classics, but I feel it’s our responsibilities as chefs to develop those dishes into something new and exciting.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I’d probably say I’m a creative chef. We have a beetroot marshmallow on the petit fours tray that is both sweet and earthy and I’m developing a truffle macaron to go on a beef dish. I’ve had basil ice creams and sabayons as sauces on savoury dishes. Food should be fun, but edible.
What is your favourite food?
I love all food. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t enjoy eating, but I absolutely adore Japanese and Middle Eastern cuisines. Japanese is just so clean and crisp and beautiful in flavour. Middle Eastern cuisine reminds me of my Mum’s and my Nan’s food, two Greek-Cypriot cooks. There’s so much flavour and colour in that style and every mouthful is an explosion.
Which is your favourite season?
This has to be the hardest question as all seasons offer something new and exciting and I’m always looking forward to the next season. If I had to choose though it’d probably be Autumn. The glut of wild mushrooms and start of the game season brings so many amazing items to my kitchen and I’m always happy hiding in the warm with a big bowl of food.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
I feel like I’m doing an injustice to so many restaurants by not including them, so I have to mention Peninsula in Greenwich, Texture in Mayfair and Chez Elles Bistro in Whitechapel, but Robuchon St. Germain in Paris holds a very special space in my heart. The service is impeccable, the food exquisite and and atmosphere superb. Becky and I still talk about their oeuf en cocotte dish, years after eating it.
Your most treasured kitchen possession?
As a chef, it’s so important to have a sharp blade and comfortable handle. I work with a set of Japanese knives by Kai Shun and love how they work for me.
Do you still visit Essex?
I still have family in Essex, my Mum is in Hockley and my sister in Leigh-on-Sea, so I pop back regularly.
What did you and your family like about Essex?
Essex was a great county to grow up in. We had an abundance of space to play, some fantastic bars and restaurants and easy access to London when I eventually starting working as an adult.
Do you have any favourite places or restaurants that you still like to visit?
I love the cockle shed in Old Leigh and grabbing a pint on the seafront.
What are your best memories?
I spent nearly a decade working at the Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh. I have so many great memories at the club and made so many close friends there. It certainly made me the man I am now.
Where: Copper & Ink. 5 Lee Road, Blackheath, London SE3 9RQ
Call: 020 3941 9337
More info: copperandink.com