Chef interview: Matty Long, Kite at The Red Hart

Matty Long, Head chef, Kite at the Red Hart, Hitchin (photo: Tom Cubis)

Matty Long, Head chef, Kite at the Red Hart, Hitchin (photo: Tom Cubis) - Credit: Tom Cubis

We caught up with the Hitchin head chef to hear about his style, food trends and his most important ingredients

Food at Kite at the Red Hart, Hitchin (photo: Tom Weller)

Food at Kite at the Red Hart, Hitchin (photo: Tom Weller) - Credit: Tom Weller

Describe your style

Familiar flavour profiles from a British background with some European and Asian influences to jazz it up a bit. Simplicity and quality are key. We aren't trying to show off, just cook great tasting and looking food.

How do you decide your menu?

Our menu is led by seasonality, and the produce available. A dish may evolve whilst the menu is running, as shorter lived produce comes in and out of season. Our kitchen garden also provides us with a lot of inspiration and seeing the food go from seed to plate is very satisfying.

What local producers do you use?

We produce a large amount of our own veg on site, so I suppose we are our own local producer!

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On top of our own kitchen garden we use Bedfordshire's Mrs Middleton's cold-pressed rapeseed oil on a daily basis, Hitchin's Wobbly Bottom Farm goats' cheese when we can, and use locally-sourced charcoal for our Fogarty oven from Herts WoodFuel in Ware.

Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing?

Our current lamb dish is a favourite, it fully embodies our ideas of refined simplicity.

The lamb saddle is cooked gently and lovingly in a pan (we have moved away from sous-vide technique for our protein cooking), served with a smooth and vibrant pea puree, a rosti potato filled with lamb shoulder, truffled broad beans and a light lamb sauce.

Your best culinary idea?

I'm pretty proud of our salted caramel and bourbon whiskey tart which has been in a state of evolution for years.

What ingredient is most important to your cooking?

Salt and butter. The simplest way to inject flavour into a dish but skilled use is what sets a stellar dish apart from a mediocre one.

Who did you train under and what did they teach you?

My first 'real' executive chef was Kevin Clarke at Luton Hoo. The person I worked closest with, for the longest time, was Scott Paton at the Horn of Plenty, and later at Boringdon Hall in Devon. Kevin taught me discipline - there is a reason for every action we take.

Scott showed me a humility and passion for food.

Next food trend?

I think we will start to see more South American ingredients and techniques coming into everyday cuisine, similar to the East Asian trend we are going through at the moment.

Quick grill

What's in your fridge at home?

Very little! I don't spend much time there. But always eggs, butter and a good quality ham.

Favourite quick meal?

Stir fry. Ready in minutes, great flavour, can't go wrong.

Top three tips for amateur cooks?

1. Taste, season, then taste again.

2. Trust your instincts.

3. Take risks.

Best cookbook?

I'm currently loving Daniel Clifford's Out of my Tree - Midsummer House.