Chef Name: Kerth Gumbs
Title: Head Chef
Awards: Great British Menu 2020 banquet finalist
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I went to study at Le Cordon Bleu institute when I was 16 years old, where I obtained a Diploma in Basic, Intermediate and Superior Cuisine & Patisserie, then straight away got stuck into Michelin-starred kitchens and high-end brasseries.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
That would be tasting the rum cake batter from my Mom’s spoon while she made the traditional Caribbean black cake, which was packed with spices, candied peels and laced with dark rum. From as far back as I can remember…
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
Björn Frantzén, or restaurant Frantzén. Although I haven’t had a chance to eat there as yet, it’s on my list. I love his style and execution along with the flavour combinations he uses.
I also admire Tom Aikens for his energy, creativity and crafty style of food.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland. I love his approach to creating new ways to utilise the whole fish, and the butchery skills and techniques are top class.
The next book I’m looking to get my hands on is Breaking the Mould by Damien Wager. Described as edible art, he explores an array of beautiful creations primarily focusing on petit gateaux, tarts and macaroons.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Maldon salt, and I love using ingredients from the citrus family: limes, lemon, yuzu, calamansi.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
My partner’s goat curry or stewed oxtail with dumplings. I absolutely love rice and peas, and equally both of these dishes can be accompanied by Johnny Cakes to dip into the sauce, ahhh heaven…
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
There’s a few that I’d love to try.
Frantzén in Sweden for their approach to ingredients which comes across as simple yet complex and Alinea by Grant Achatz in Chicago for his innovation and creativity through food.
And who would you take as your guest?
I’d take my partner and would love to take a few of my chefs also.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Honesty, having a sense of humility, dedication and loyalty. These all help to build positive confidence for their future goals.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Be observant, don’t be afraid to look to your right/left and over colleagues’ shoulders to learn as much as you can, surround yourself with people that help you become a better version of yourself within your craft, and finally, practice what you cook in the restaurant by utilising the techniques throughout your cooking at home for friends and family as much as you can.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
Like everyone, we had to close the restaurant three times – every time with minimal notice causing a loss of produce and stock, and also a loss of staff / redundancies.
On the first lockdown we tried take-away options which was ok, however on the second lockdown the take-away option wasn’t working so well, so by third lockdown, we then started meal kits by creating occasions boxes, including birthday, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day offerings, etc., trying to bring a taste of the restaurant to people’s homes.
This pandemic has forced the industry to rethink and become more accessible and inclusive which has been a great thing so far…
It has also allowed chefs the rare opportunity to spend more time with family and loved ones, however, it came with anxiety caused by the unsurety of job security and most of all has fostered a new type of hospitality bullying…
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
You can never be fully prepared for anything in life as it’s ever-changing, however, to pursue your dreams even through change, you must have two things:
- an able mind and a willing body, or
- an able body and a willing mind.
With these intertwined you’ll be on your way to overcome obstacles and find excitement. Your career will be filled with highs and lows, but the reward through this journey will be to make yourself and assert yourself.
I have changed tremendously over the years from an adrenaline-pumped low tolerance boy, which fitted in with the surroundings and times of my training back then, to now: a more positive high-spirited chef. I pay much more attention to building bonds with my chefs, helping them to achieve their culinary goals.
My food has evolved and has been adapted through different concepts, from cooking in a tapas style 27-seater restaurant in Singapore to executing fine-dining dishes in 80-seater restaurants in the heart of London.
My beliefs are that human beings create life, and food is the source that maintains it. One can’t be without the other.
Chef Kerth Gumbs is Head Chef at Boiler & Co
Address: Blue Fin Bldg, 5 Canvey St, London
Telephone: +44 20 7928 1554
Instagram: @kerth.gumbs & @boilerandcompany