Get to know Head Chef Robert Potter at The Bybrook
How did you get involved with food? My love for food started from a very young age. Since I can remember, I enjoyed spending time cooking with my mum and my nan. This meant that I knew the route that I wanted to go down when I finished school, joining Walsall College of Art and Technology to study catering. My first job in the industry was at 16. I worked as a kitchen porter and then went on to be a barman which was a really enjoyable experience before returning back to the kitchen where I have been ever since.
What is your food philosophy? I would say, classical with modern touches. I love cooking seasonal dishes and creating seasonal menus and I consider myself very lucky to have such a beautiful kitchen garden that gardener John Rowlands and his team maintain throughout the year. Sous chef Martin Blake, the team and I can really love going into the garden, harvesting the freshest fruits, vegetables and herbs and bringing those fresh ingredients straight to our diners’ plates. When creating new dishes, I always try and incorporate as much texture and flavour as possible and I really believe that by growing our own produce, we're able to choose the most perfectly ripe and flavoursome ingredients to go into our seasonal dishes.
What is the best cooking advice that you have ever received? “Taste, Taste Taste!” - You can never taste your sauces, purees and dishes enough to make sure they are the best that they can be! It’s all about keeping up with the quality and keeping consistent day in and day out.
What is your go to menu item when eating out? I tend to go for scallops and shell fish in general.
What ingredient could you not live without? I do not think I can live without salt. I could work around every other ingredient but I do require some way of seasoning my food.
What is your favourite part of the kitchen garden at The Manor House? That has got to be the salad tunnel. It is just incredible! I get all my micro-herbs, salads and tomatoes from there. My favourite thing about having the salad tunnel is that you can really see quite quickly the growth from seeds to garnish. I just love all ingredients that I have picked up from there this year. They have really have added to my dishes, with their fresh, vibrant and natural colours and textures.
Who would your dream dinner guests be? I would love to invite John Cooper, my college lecturer and biggest influence on my career from the start. He was always there for me, pointing me in the right direction as a young chef. I also would love to cook for David Bowie as he seems like he was great entertainment to everyone who he met during his life and he is just an extremely talented guy.
What advice do you have for young chefs who aspire to be an award winning Michelin-starred chef? It is all about commitment. A lot of the time, young chefs will go through moments of questioning what is most important to them as they give up a lot of their time with their family and friends due to working long hours and missing important dates such as Christmas and Birthdays. It is hard but if you stick with it and you are persistent, you will eventually get there.