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Meet the chef: Laura Christie and Chris Boustead

Chris Boustead , Laura Christie and Ollie Photo: Lucas Smith
Chris Boustead , Laura Christie and Ollie Photo: Lucas Smith

Hospitality power couple Laura and Chris have more than 25 years of industry experience in London and the north of England. Their latest is Linden Stores in Knutsford – the third incarnation of the restaurant, which opened just a few weeks ago in Minshull Street.

Chef Chris is in charge of the kitchen with Laura heading up all things wine and front of house and together they are pouring all their love and experience into their new dining destination. Here, the couple who live in the town with seven-year-old son Ollie, share their food loves.

Tell us about Linden Stores

Laura and Chris: Linden Stores is all about great locally sourced food with exciting wines in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. We hope we’ve created the kind of space we ourselves enjoy spending time in – relaxed knowledgeable service with an eye for detail, food designed to share, with our chef’s menu encouraging guests to try something they might not have otherwise picked and unusual, natural wines.

First dish you learned to cook?

Chris: Pancakes. Pancake day is a big deal in Scarborough where I grew up; everyone has the day off school for ‘skipping day’, as it’s known, and head down to the seafront ‘to skip’ before heading home for pancakes. I’m one of five boys and my mum has MS, so cooking was a case of learning on the job. My first real foray into cooking was when I was around 14, making pancakes for us all on skipping day.

Most vivid childhood food memory?

Chris: Visiting my Grandma Boustead’s and having chicken and homemade chips and discovering salt for the first time. She was an excellent cook and made everything from scratch. Simple food but it was the first time I remember trying something seasoned well and it always stands out as one of the lightbulb moments for me with food.

Most memorable meal out?

Laura: Last year we visited Culture in Falmouth, the food was outstanding and the ethos of the restaurant is right up our street. But what made it so magical was visiting as a family – like us, they offer their tasting menu for children and watching Ollie try things for the first time and really start to explore food was magical. The entire holiday saw Ollie tucking into everything from venison to crab and pushed us that bit further on the path of enjoying food together as a family.

Chris: For me, it’s Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth, which we also visited last year. I’m a big Newcastle fan and we’d gone to tour St James’ Park for my Father’s Day gift, visiting Riley’s that evening. The location is sensational – sat on deckchairs on the beach with a fire pit, watching the sun go down. The food is exceptional – I still think about that skate wing. Similarly, to Laura, it was enjoying that food as a family that made it such a special memory.

Favourite ingredient?

Chris: When it’s in season you absolutely cannot beat British asparagus. It’s always a feature on our menu, with a simple dish to allow the asparagus to shine.

Your go-to snack?

Chris: It’s got to be a croquette. We met working in Spanish restaurants about 12 years ago and our love of a croquette started there. We always have a croquette on the menu at Linden Stores and they’re as popular with guests as they are with us.

If you weren't running Linden Stores, what would you be doing?

Laura: We love restaurants, it’s all we’ve both ever done professionally and I can’t imagine doing anything else. However, wine is a big passion of mine and I would love to work in a winery for a year and see the practical side of winemaking. Ideally Australia and get some sun at the same time.

Your dream dinner guest?

Chris: We’d both love my Mum to see Linden Stores. The money she left us allowed us to start the original business not only gave us our careers but it has also given me the flexibility to be a big part of Ollie’s life. I couldn’t have Ollie sat on the fridge chatting to me prepping in anyone else’s kitchen. We’d love her to see what she has helped us achieve.

Your guilty food pleasure?

Laura: I’m not sure it counts as a food but everyone who knows me knows the way to my heart is a Diet Coke. It’s my guilty pleasure and I drink far too much of it.

Who are your Cheshire food and drink heroes?

Laura: It’s a bit of a left field choice but I would have to say The Clink in Wilmslow. I have been working with The Clink this past summer and what they are doing there is inspirational. The Clink is a training restaurant attached to HMP Styal, open to the public, and provides women coming to the end of their sentence practical skills in hospitality. More importantly, it builds confidence and reminds the women society is willing to give second chances and none of us is defined by the biggest mistake we have made. The team is outstanding and the results speak for themselves. The food is pretty fantastic too.

A hospitality industry person who inspires?

Laura: We both really admire Gary Usher and what he has done to grow his business, Elite Bistros. To have reached the size of business it now is and to maintain consistency of food and drink is admirable. But to have all your employees speak so highly of you, as they always do whenever we come across one, means you have done it with integrity.

A place you love to eat?

Chris: We love The Church Inn, Mobberley. We enjoy going for a big walk as a family and then share a cheese board in their boot room with a glass of red to wash it down. It’s owned by Cheshire Cat Pubs and their places are all very well done.

What has been a career highlight?

Chris: It has to be winning Best Newcomer 2022 in the Taste Cheshire awards. To have that recognition meant so much to us.

What's next for you and Linden Stores?

Laura: We have a busy programme of events for the next year and have been fortunate enough to find some fantastic staff who are full of exciting ideas for where we can take  Linden Stores. We just can’t wait to see where this latest incarnation of Linden Stores takes us. 

What's your wish for 2024?

Chris: We are hoping Linden Stores settles in nicely to its new home in Knutsford and we have a bit more time for family after a busy opening period. Newcastle winning the Champions League would also be nice.

Chris’s favourite dish

Currently my favourite is our short rib,’ says Chris. ‘Perfect for this time of year and an impressive-looking dish that always gets a great reaction at the table. We’re using local beef and it just perfectly with the salsa verde cutting through the richness of the dish.’

lindenstores.co.uk



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