I joined Berrys' Private Wine Events Team in 2008 and at that time the food offer was very much secondary to the wine. I wanted guests to have a complete dining experience where the food was as good as the wine, so with my team I set about bringing in more of a refined restaurant feel and writing menus that were specifically wine friendly.
I think most fine wine is only fully appreciated when had with food, and this marriage brings out the best in both. Our food has to be seasonal and we have to use the best ingredients, so you won’t see strawberries on the menu at Christmas. I also believe that care and husbandry is far more important than an organic certification and I don’t subscribe to the opinion that everything must be British; there are some fantastic artisan producers all over Europe and we spend a lot of time sourcing ingredients. I am a modernist at heart, although classically trained, and I like food that’s complex and interesting.
We are always looking at new techniques and ideas to keep things funky and fresh and I’m always looking at the restaurant scene to make sure we are up with what’s hot. Flavour and taste are key.
Although I like food that’s visually exciting, it’s a real let down if something looks great but tastes ordinary. As well as the food, the service, wine, setting and company all go to make a meal magical. That’s the sort of experience we aim to provide at Berry Bros. & Rudd.
A typical day starts at about 9.30am, checking the invoices and deliveries, then helping out with all the day’s preparations. On any one day we can have five or six events to cater for and the phone is going constantly with updates for numbers, dietary requirements etc. The food and wine matching events are the most demanding. These require bespoke, one-off menus that are centred around one ingredient. They can be quite complex dishes that require a lot of attention, but are also very satisfying when everything goes to plan.
With so many different areas serviced from one kitchen, there’s a massive amount of organisation required, all compounded by the size of the kitchen itself – we once had a client comment that he had a bigger kitchen on his boat
But I love the challenge and we normally finish a little earlier than I used to in my restaurant days, plus I can get a few nights off now and again to spend some time with the family.
I’ve got a fantastically talented and hardworking team and I love it when people are impressed by the food. Customers come to Berry Brothers & Rudd expecting great wine, but we have had lots of people comment that the meals they have had here are some of their best ever. I try to take these comments with a pinch of salt, of course, but they do give me a sense of pride.