From the kitchens of Cheltenham to working for Gloucestershire’s very own Tom Kerridge, Gloucester chef Matthew Blowing has achieved great success in just two years, and he’s only 18 years old.
The rising star, who cut his culinary teeth in Gloucestershire, now works as chef de partie at Tom’s award-winning 2 Michelin-starred Marlow gastropub, The Hand and Flowers, and is set to compete in this year’s prestigious Young National Chef of the Year awards.
It all began in a small restaurant in Cheltenham called The Suffolk Kitchen at the age of 16, working part-time washing up for a bit of money so I could afford to go out with my mates on the weekends. After a couple of months scrubbing pans and plates, I was let loose on the pastry section making simple sponges and desserts.
While learning basic cooking at The Suffolk Kitchen under head chef Chester Henry, I was also studying at Gloucestershire College – in the same exact kitchen where Tom began his career.
In all honesty I had no real passion for cooking, but as soon as I stepped foot in the kitchen I felt at home. After realising how much great produce we have in the UK and the amount of different techniques you can use with them, I then really started to fall in love with it.
While I was washing up all the dirty pots and pans I would just watch all the chefs run around and create works of art. I loved the environment the most, long hard days in a hot kitchen was really the reason I wanted to become a chef, a lot of people must think I’m mad!
It has developed massively since becoming a chef. I now live away from my family, paying my own bills and buying my own food for the week. My career hasn’t just developed in the kitchen, it has made a dramatic change to my personal life too.
However, inside the kitchen I am now working alongside some of the biggest names in the current culinary world and using equipment and produce that only a few kitchens are lucky enough to have. It’s no longer just a job, it is my life now and I’m loving every second of it.
It actually all came about from my dad. My dad is massively supportive of me and my career so when he noticed they were looking for chefs he rang me straight away. I was actually at work at the time and I applied for the position while waiting for service to start!
When I first started I was very nervous and scared. After only cooking for a year, I was there cooking next to him, so it was very surreal. Tom is a great chef, always coming up with amazing new ideas and creating some awesome dishes. He respects all his staff highly and is always looking after us. I can’t say enough how much I respect Tom, not just as a chef but as a person, he’s an all round top man!
I think the greatest difference is the amount of passion and hard work. The attention to detail is crazy too, once we plate up our dish it has to be checked by either our head chef or Tom before it goes out to the customer. Our standards in the restaurant are massive, it’s all good being awarded the two stars, but the next job is maintaining them and that’s the hardest part.
Probably my most favourite is any sort of fish. There is nothing I love more than coming into work at 5am and filleting 15kg of fish! It’s such a delicate ingredient and very easy to mess up, I think the amount of attention in which you have to give the fish while cooking it is what makes it the best.
I would have to say my signature dish is sea bream with butter beans, onion velouté and lovage – it’s such an elegant dish and tastes as good as it looks!
A place that I always like visiting is The House in the Tree in Hayden, and also more recently The Clarence Social in Cheltenham. From a fine dining point of view I highly recommend Le Champignon Sauvage in Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, which is the 2 Michelin restaurant of another culinary legend, David Everitt-Matthias.
I was back home seeing the family when Tom rang me congratulating me on being selected. I honestly couldn’t believe it, I pinched myself a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming!
I then got my notebook out and sat down for a good couple of hours thinking of dishes to cook in the competition. It’s such an honour to be put up there with some great young chefs, I just can’t wait to get into the kitchen and put my all into it!
The competition is four stages long, and stage one consists of 200 chefs cooking two savoury dishes, with the best 100 going through. In stage two you have to create a dessert with no recipes to follow, the best 20 dishes will be put through, and then it’s a series of skills including sugar work, meat and fish preparation and knife skills. The judges will then crown the winner at the end of August.
I am a massive fan of Alain Ducasse. What that man has achieved in his career is mind blowing.
So far I think it has to be cooking at The Shard in London, such an amazing view. Also, I will be cooking at 10 Downing Street at the end of February this year for the prime minister and I am sure that will take top spot as my highlight!
I’ve had an endless list of kitchen nightmares, but my worst has to be when I had to cook around £150 worth of beef for a wedding function. I left it in the oven and went home completely forgetting my costly ingredients were cooking away, only for me to find the burnt offerings the next morning. I did not enjoy that day!
From the culinary world Alain Ducasse as I would love to hear his feedback on my dishes and outside of the culinary world, cooking for the Queen at a state banquet would be such an honour.
Soak up everything you learn and go outside of your comfort zone. One thing I have learnt since becoming a chef is that it isn’t just about the ingredients and the cooking, but also the lifestyle. While it can be serious hard work, this does make the highs more enjoyable and generates great camaraderie within the team.
Hanging out with my mates or visiting family. After spending long days in a confined kitchen it’s nice to get out and spend some time with close ones.
It has to be a homemade beef lasagne with ratatouille. Even though I spend my life creating petite elegant plates of food, I will always pick a nice hearty plate of Italian heaven!
By Anna Marshall
Tuesday 17 January 2017
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