Ryan Swift

The head chef at Peel’s restaurant Hampton Manor tells us about being in awe of his nan in the kitchen and recalls some inspirational chefs who influenced him on the road to success

Tell me about your cooking

My style is very much my own, I think it is important to be true to yourself. Generally I like to keep it simple, preferring clean, clear and precise flavours, nothing too fussy or heavy. If you use the freshest seasonal produce and only the finest quality ingredients, the flavours should just come through.

Describe your perfect meal

A nice relaxing Sunday lunch consisting of a traditional roast, eaten at home with close family and my girlfriend, Hayley. Our new head sommelier, Seamus Sharkey, is still educating me about perfect wine pairings.

How did you become a chef?

My love of food began in my nan’s kitchen. I was in awe of how she created flavoursome home-cooked dishes from the constant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables my grandad produced from the garden each day. As a very young boy, I would stand on a footstool at the kitchen sink armed with a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon and experiment with my often inedible ‘special mixes.’ Hopefully, I have upped my game a bit over the ensuing years. My formal training began at the Birmingham College of Food & Technology. In my final year, I did a placement at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington in the fine dining Tenth Restaurant, under the guidance of head chef Norman Farquharson and was offered a full-time position as commis chef. From that point on, I was totally smitten, not to mention exhausted and broke trying to work and play on a commis chef’s wages in affluent West London.

What do you eat when at home?

Rather too much comfort food to be honest.

Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?

Every top chef and critic would be hard pressed to answer that one. Arguably, either Ferran Adria or Thomas Keller? The best in Brum accolade has to go to Andreas Antona at Simpsons and Simon Haigh.

Is the customer always right?

Yes, if he happens to be reading this.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

Doing what you love for a living and being able to express yourself through food. Positive feedback from diners gives you a real buzz and a profound sense of satisfaction from knowing that you have contributed towards providing an all-round enjoyable and memorable dining experience.

What’s the worst thing about being a chef?

The unsociable hours though they don’t bother me as I’m happy and enjoy what I do.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

Probably a fire fighter.

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?

It’s all down to personal preference, but pigeon as a starter and the cod and langoustine or lamb dish as a main perhaps.

Try Ryan’s recipe for Creamy vanilla pannacotta with raspberry granita

INGREDIENTS

For the pannacotta:

  • 250g milk
  • 250g double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 leaves of gelatine

For the raspberry granite:

  • 2 punnets of raspberries pureed
  • 200g water
  • 100g caster sugar

METHOD

Start by making the pannacotta. Soak the gelatine in ice cold water until nice and soft. Meanwhile bring the sugar, milk, cream and vanilla pod to the boil. Take off the heat, add the gelatine and mix well until dissolved. Pour through a fine sieve and set in small moulds. Mix all the ingredients for the raspberry granita together and stir until the caster sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture into a metal tray and place in the freezer. Once it starts to freeze, use a fork to break it up and keep running the fork through it every hour until you have raspberry crystals of ice. When you’re ready to serve dress fresh raspberries with a touch of red wine vinegar. Turn out the pannacotta into a bowl, garnish with the dressed raspberries, spoon over the raspberry granita and serve with vanilla ice cream and granola.

Peel's Restaurant Hampton Manor, Shadowbrook Lane, Hampton-in-Arden, Solihull, B92 0EN www.peelsrestaurant.co.uk