The joint owner of Jonathans in the Park and most recently Jonathans in the Roundhouse, Paul Havelin began his hospitality career in the renowned Jonathans restaurant in Oldbury and is eager to continue its legacy in not one but two historical buildings in the city
Tell us about your cooking
My cooking style could be known as any or all of these: rustic, country house, hearty and wholesome. Developing recipes for our menus is very exciting, although waiting to see how our customers receive these creations can be a tense time. If the dish works and is complimented that’s fantastic – if not, then it is removed from the menu.
How did you become a chef?
While I was at secondary school, I had several part-time jobs – an early morning milk round boy, a green grocer’s boy and a butcher boy. I met a friend who had a part-time job at Jonathans Restaurant and I was introduced to one of the two Jonathans, the owners. They were looking for a washer-up and that quickly became another of my part-time jobs!
While working there, Jonathan Bedford suggested that I become a chef. There weren’t any vacancies at the time but I was offered a part-time waiter position instead and I loved it. When I left school, I was offered a trainee chef position at Jonathans – I was trained on the job and at Halesowen college, and by the age of 17, I was promoted to joint head chef. Years later I moved on to work and live overseas – I worked in the US, France, Corsica and the Channel Islands.
What do you eat at home?
It’s a very basic diet as I still spend lots of hours working at the restaurants. My staple food loves are ancient grain breads with cheese and homemade chutney, vegetable stews and casseroles and, when I have a little more time at home, I love cooking Indian foods. My weak spot is puddings though – fresh fruit crumble is just irresistible!
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
That’s a difficult question to answer as it depends on so many different aspects. The chef I respect the most is Marco Pierre White. He really knows his stuff from the type of cookware to use, utensils, ovens, storage preferences, fast cook, slow cook…
Share a cooking tip
Let your food cook down as they do in Caribbean cookery. Over a low heat, stir a little and allow your chopped onions, garlic, fresh herbs and spices to really get to know one another in that pot. This can be the base to a curry, a hot pot, a stew or a pie filling, and remember to add lots and lots of love to it.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
My mom’s stews with bread and her Yorkshire puddings on Sundays.
Food heaven and food hell?
My heaven is organic, well-prepared and lightly cooked vegetables au natural. My hell is fast processed foods filled with sugars and salts.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
When I was working at Jonathans, Jon Bedford gave me some raw pigeon breast to try and I wasn’t impressed.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I’d probably be an antiques dealer working and living in Paris.
PAUL’S NICE AND EASY BIRYANI RISOTTO
This is Paul’s go-to recipe is for a biryani / risotto:
• Use a heavy bottomed saucepan and put in one large onion and four cloves of garlic roughly chopped, plus three carrots scrubbed or peeled and sliced
• Begin to slowly fry this in two tablespoons of cooking oil on a low heat, then add one can of tomatoes chopped or whole, stir in well and leave to simmer for five minutes (stirring every now and then)
• Put any of your favourite herbs in, about one teaspoon full, and if you like chicken, slice two chicken breasts and add to the pan
• If you prefer not to include meat, use a peeled and sliced butternut squash instead, but stir and fry on a slightly higher heat, then add one measure, say a teacup, of washed rice
• Keep stirring and frying, then add two measures, say two teacups of cold water
• Stir everything well, turn up the heat and bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer
• Finally, add two crushed vegetable stock cubes, stir again, put a lid on the saucepan and leave to simmer for approx 25 minutes
• You’ll need to then season to taste. Bon appetite!