MEET THE CHEF: This week we meet Will Frankgate, chef patron at The Blue Bell in Glinton, which received a 10/10 rating in the Peterborough Telegraph recently and features in both the Michelin and Harden’s Best UK Restaurants guides. Catch him on June 23 demonstrating at the Cambridgeshire Food and Drink Festival at the East of England Arena and Event Centre.
Where did it all begin - how did you get into the business?
My parents were in the industry for over 40 years, my mother ran the front of house while my father was the chef. So I was brought up in the family business, so to speak. I was asked to help out for an evening or two when I was in my teens. I soon realised I had the desire to learn the trade. I didn’t go to college, but luckily was able to gain knowledge through my parents, cookery books and from work-based training.
What were your ambitions then - and now?
Our aims are to ensure standards are kept high, and we are always looking to improve where we can, whether it be the food we send out, or the service our customers receive.
We always adapt a ‘what’s next?’ approach and are constantly improving the systems that we have in place.
Who have been your influences?
I get inspired by a lot of chefs. To name a few of the elite I would have to say Sat Bains, The Roux family, Gordon Ramsay and Heston. This is not just for their cooking skills, but also for their methodical approach to perfection, operational skills and overall management within the industry. They always strive for perfection in all areas, and I find this a remarkable achievement and something to aspire to.
How did you come to be at The Blue Bell - where have you worked previously?
I have been trained within independent hotels and pubs as well as working alongside my father initially. I worked under Stuart Plant at Hanchurch Manor and executive chef Matt Davies of the Lewis Partnership in Staffordshire.
When the opportunity became available to take over The Blue Bell in Glinton, it was almost like fate. Having grown up in the village, I knew the area well. The demographics looked good on paper and when we came to look around we just felt like it was right. We care very much about the pub, the customers who visit, and everything that we are able to offer.
How important is the team around you? Is recruitment difficult?
The team is the key to everything. Without the team we have nothing. I will always be grateful for the members within the team that are able to go that extra mile. I personally feel the more you put in, the more rewarding it can be, for the short and long term.
Recruitment is hard. Finding good, reliable staff is a challenge. This line of work doesn’t suit everybody.
What can people expect from your menus?
We use local butchers who provide us with some excellent choice cuts/quality of meats. We aim to source local produce wherever possible and like to vary our menu in order to keep it seasonal and take advantage of the great products close to our doorstep. My style is using good ingredients, cooked with care and attention. I enjoy using seasonal ingredients and embracing the change of seasons. It’s the excitement of being able to reintroduce something back onto your menu that’s only available for a small section of the year. They are then at their very best and we look forward to designing our dishes around these.
What was the first dish you put on a menu - and what is the most recent?
One of the first dishes on the menu was our Fish and Chips. Fresh battered cod fillet with garden pea puree and tartare sauce. It’s never been off since we moved in. It’s a classic pub dish, but we have lots of good feedback and its our best lunch time seller.
Favourite dish on the menu at the moment - and why?
Rump of Lamb, Potato Gnocchi, Purple Sprouting, Broccoli, Charred Leeks, Salsa Verde
I like the combination of flavours and textures. It’s a lovely spring/summer dish.
What gives you most pleasure working in a restaurant?
The variety of the work. From designing menus to pulling pints. I like to keep learning and improving where we can.
The best part for me is when we are able to deliver the expectation to our customers. Seeing them leave happy is a job well done.
Others in the Meet The Chef series