Chef For All Seasons pop up @ Ronnie’s: Review

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What do you do, as a restaurateur, when your restaurant is closed for the festive break? The answer, for Ronnie Faulkner, is to open his restaurant up to a freelance chef agency for the evening.

On Monday, January 12th, Ray Brizell of Chef For All Seasons and a team of seven freelance chefs who are on his books took over the kitchen of Ronnie’s in Thornbury to provide a six course tasting menu for a number of hungry diners. The purpose of the evening was to showcase the skills of Ray’s agency chefs, to demonstrate their suitability and versatility in working with restaurants who are looking for cover in the kitchen.

Chef For All Seasons provide chefs of a high standard to restaurants looking for chefs for anything from a few days to longer term. Every chef on Ray’s books is fully trained and has a background of working at a high level, giving restaurant owners the confidence they need to take on temporary kitchen help.

After copious canapés that included oysters, blue cheese beignets and foie gras toasts, we were led upstairs to the dining room for a meal prepared by these six chefs, using meat from Walter Rose and fish from Kingfisher, among other top notch ingredients.

We began with a selection of breads served with a choice of butters (the poppy seed butter was unusual, but fantastic), before being presented with an amuse bouche of the silkiest Jerusalem artichoke velouté, complete with earthy nuggets of mushroom. On the side, a truffled quail egg, the smell of the truffles hitting us instantly. Sadly, though, the egg was a little overcooked, and the whole thing was underseasoned.

 

Chef For All Seasons pop up - veloute

 

The velouté was followed by my favourite course of the meal: a rich, fennel infused broth that surrounded a small piece of gurnard fillet, along with cockles, mussels and scallops – all perfectly cooked…

 

Chef For All Seasons pop up - Gurnard

 

For the main, an enormous slab of slow cooked beef brisket: meltingly tender and served with a jus whose richness was tempered by the celeriac puree at the base of the plate. The fondant parsnip was something new for me but worked well, with the only disapppointment being the “crisp ox tongue” that we were promised. Crisp it was, the crisp pink meat encased in a beignet-style coating, but the exterior was far too thick, losing the flavour of the tongue itself.

 

Chef For All Seasons pop up - beef

 

Before our dessert, we were presented with a Mojito granite, served in miniature jam jars. Its summery feeling going against the rain and the wind outside, these were suitably boozy and included the surprise addition of popping candy, which delighted our table…

 

Chef For All Seasons pop up - granite

 

In all honesty, the dessert was probably my least favourite course. The star anise parfait was technically perfect, with a great texture. However, the subtle flavour of the star anise was lost amongst the crumbs of ginger biscuit that coated the outside. We were also promised “clementine don three ways”, and were presented with segments of the fruit, a creamy mousse-like concoction (which was delicious) and a thick and smooth purée, which unfortunately was far too bitter for my liking…

 

Chef For All Seasons pop up - Dessert

 

Our table demolished our cheeseboard. There’s nothing worse than a tired cheeseboard that features Cheddar, Stilton and Brie as the staples – but this version was perfect. A mature Mrs Singleton’s Cheddar, a strong and creamy wedge of Lancashire Bomb, a pungent Cornish Blue, the delicate and citrusy Cerney Ash goats’ cheese and the semi-soft Burwash Rose, its rind washed in rose water, were the perfect ending to a great meal.

 

Chef For All Seasons pop up - cheese

 

With coffee and a choice of truffles or fortune cookies came the introduction of the chefs whose hard work had made the evening possible. All highly trained and with some amazing work experience under their belt, these six are just a few of those with whom Ray works: last year, on average, he placed 75-80 chefs per week across the UK and beyond. Last year, for example, he sent a chef to India for a private job.

For the restaurants, it’s a great opportunity to hire chefs at short notice, even if just for a few days. For the chefs on Ray’s books, it’s a chance to work for a wide variety of different venues, not only gaining great experience but also enjoying a great deal of variety in their work. While there were a few elements of the evening that were nowhere near as good as others, it’s obvious that these guys can cook.

 

Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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