Chef Q&A: Eric Huvelin, The Radcliffe

Flavour, texture and colour are key to the dishes

Flavour, texture and colour are key to the dishes - Credit: Archant

The head chef at the Hitchin restaurant gives an insight into his kitchen

Seasonality drives the menu

Seasonality drives the menu - Credit: Archant

Describe your style

I grew up in France and am classically French trained but I have lived and worked in the UK for the past 30 years so have a passion for modern British food. My style incorporates both these elements.

How do you decide your menu?

Although I usually propose the initial ideas, we have a great team here at the Radcliffe and we engage as many people as possible in the process. We start by looking at what is in season locally. Our first priority is always the flavour of the dish, but I try to combine different textures and colours on the plate to make the dish as vibrant and interesting as possible.

Eric Huvelin, head chef, The Radcliffe, Hitchin

Eric Huvelin, head chef, The Radcliffe, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

Do you use Herts producers?

Yes, the new owners of the Radcliffe are passionate about keeping it local and we have some amazing producers here on our doorstep – not only food but also a number of local drinks producers, all from Hertfordshire. These include Offley Hoo Farm, Meadow Farm, Wobbly Bottom Farm, Pinsters Gin from Royston (which we also make into ice cream), Buntingford Brewery, Foraging Fox beetroot ketchup and Mrs Middleton’s rapeseed oils. I love experimenting with the different products.

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Which dish do you most enjoy preparing?

Our menu changes regularly but right now I would have to say our lamb cutlet served with a Navarin casserole, baby vegetables and new potatoes finished with pistou. The dish really characterises what I am about as a chef – it combines the French element with the finest local lamb alongside fresh vegetables. It’s a hearty plate of food while not being too heavy for summer.

What ingredient is most important to your cooking?

Although it isn’t strictly an ingredient, stock is so important in my kitchen. We make all of our stock from scratch, something many restaurants have stopped doing. We use a traditional two-day process to ensure it’s packed with flavour. The stock then gets used for sauces, jus and sometimes as a poaching liquid.

Your best culinary idea?

That is a difficult question! I don’t think I can pick one thing. Menus are constantly evolving and being developed. I love learning new processes and trying new products. I think the UK allows for more creativity than the traditions of France so I am always experimenting. The people of Hitchin really seem to like spices and flavour, which is great for me.

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

After formal training in France I worked under the late Rory Kennedy, who was one of Albert Roux’s prodigies. He was truly inspirational and gave me a great start. I have also worked for Paul Hackett, another of Albert’s prodigies. More recently I worked under Jean-Christophe Novelli. All kitchens are different and they have all helped to make me the chef I am today.

Prediction for next food trend?

We are currently engaged in a healthier and exciting children’s menu. We are working with children, for children of different ages. There’s an active campaign to try to end nuggets, fingers and sausages with chips. Children these days have far more sophisticated tastes and we want to embrace that.

What’s in your home fridge? As a Frenchman I love my cheese so I always have two or three cheeses. I also love potted meat - at the moment I have some potted rabbit on the go.

Favourite quick meal? I love omelettes – the eggs have to be free range and fresh and I put in whatever I have in the fridge.

Top three tips for amateur cooks?

Treat your ingredients with care and respect. Don’t overcomplicate dishes. Use all your senses when you cook, not just a recipe.

Best cookbook? My favourites are by Alain Ducasse – an amazing chef but also down to earth and realistic.

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