As Opus celebrates its tenth birthday, head chef Ben Ternent tells us what makes him tick and how he still craves his mum’s moussaka
Tell us about your cooking
If I had to put a name to my style I’d call it simple, modern British. I use seasonal produce – local where possible. We’re quite lucky in Birmingham with beautiful local vegetables and meat. We draw from the surrounding counties and have sourced some great producers.
How did you become a chef?
My mum’s a great cook and always made sure we had home cooked food on the table. I still crave her moussaka! I was always into food at high school and followed that with three years at UCB or the College of Food as it was then. I spent a year in the States when I was 19 on a placement and then joined Opus where I’ve been for 10 years. Cooking is constantly evolving – new techniques, flavours, ingredients and I’m inspired by lots of things – experiences, eating out, other chefs.
What do you eat when at home?
I’m not at home as much as I’d like, but a BBQ with top-notch free range meat would be great. Having said that, my girlfriend is a veggie so I’ve been experimenting with a lot of vegetarian dishes lately.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
I can’t pin point one chef as they all have different attributes. In Brum I’d say my brigade at Opus is the best. You need such teamwork in the kitchen to be successful and they are brilliant.
Is the customer always right?
Yes is the short answer! Whether we agree or not is another matter…
What was your favourite food as a kid?
Did I mention my mum’s moussaka? It’s unbeatable. She also made a great lasagne. Real comfort food.
Share a cooking tip
For an easy Sunday brunch, prep your poached eggs the day before. Boil a pan of water and add a good splash of red wine vinegar. Bring to rolling boil and crack four eggs at a time; boil for 3 minutes, 20 seconds. Lift out into ice water. Once cool, trim off the excess white to shape a beautiful round poached egg. Store covered in fridge until ready the next day. When ready to serve up your breakfast/brunch, reheat for one minute in boiling water.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven would be something fresh out of the sea – scallops or John Dory. Hell would be something too offal-y. Heart, liver, kidneys – it’s all just too strong for my palate.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
A friend of mine has a Japanese girlfriend and she made a traditional dish called Natto which is basically fermented soy beans – it was just horrible.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
My grandad was in the building trade and I used to go round the site with him, so probably a brickie.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Ox tongue terrine with parmesan, caper berries and horseradish.
Try Ben’s recipe for Gin and Beetroot Cured Salmon:
Side of raw salmon
- 200g salt
- 200g sugar
- 1 x raw beetroot
- 25ml gin
- 1 x lemon zest
- 1 x lime zest
- Frisee Watercress
- Red, golden, candy beetroot
- 2 x lemons
- 200g sugar
- 200ml water
- 1 x star anise
- 1 x clove
- 6 x black peppercorns
- Cooked beetroot
- Water Olive oil
Mix salt, sugar, zest and grated beetroot together. Pat onto salmon and add gin. Leave for 24 hours in fridge.
Thinly slice lemon. Bring to boil sugar, water and spices. Add lemon and remove from heat. Leave to infuse for 2 hours.
Thinly slice/chop cooked beetroot and add to a pan with a small amount of water in the bottom. Once hot blend to a puree then emulsify with extra virgin olive oil until thick and creamy.
Thinly slice a selection of vegetables. Place into ice water to crisp up.
Thinly slice or cube the salmon. Place on a plate and arrange the crispy vegetables. Spoon the beetroot puree onto the plate. Chop the preserved lemon into the watercress and frisee leaves. Place the leaves on top of the salmon and dribble preserved lemon juice throughout the leaves.