Tuesday 18 February 2020

In the kitchen with Pyromaniac Chef Kathryn Minchew

A love of fire pit cooking led Gloucester-based MasterChef semi-finalist Kathryn Minchew, also known as the Pyromaniac Chef, to set up a unique restaurant concept in her garden, with a cookbook also in the pipeline.

Can you tell SoGlos a bit about yourself and where you’re from?

My name’s Kathryn Minchew, I’ve lived in Gloucester since 2008 but I’m originally from North Yorkshire.

What brought you down to the area?

It was love for my now-husband James. I love it here; the food and the farm shops are amazing – I think people from Gloucestershire take them for granted.

How did you get involved in the food side of things?

When I was doing my A Levels I did a course at Leiths School of Food and Wine but I wasn’t keen on the idea of working in a big commercial kitchen or being a caterer so I thought if it wasn’t either of those two things it could only be a hobby.

So, much as I enjoyed doing the course, I went off to uni and became an academic. On a whim, I applied for MasterChef and in 2008 I got as far as being a semi-finalist. In the run up to and after MasterChef I did quite a lot of travelling because my work specialised in the political economy of south-east Asia so I spent a lot of time there doing research for my Masters and my PhD.

Were you inspired by the flavours in south-east Asia?

Absolutely. An awful lot of cooking is done with a single pan over a Calor gas canister which is why so many people use woks as it is very quick and very fresh. I was really inspired by a lot of the flavours I encountered over the time I lived there; I spent a whole year in Malaysia so I developed a love for spicy food.

How did you come up with the concept for the restaurant?

We were with some friends in Barcelona and one of them booked us into this place where a chef had turned his home into a restaurant. What I really loved was that we weren’t actually given any choice over food or drink; it was a set menu with dishes the chef felt like cooking that day.

How did the idea develop once you got home?

I had a hut in the garden, which had been my home office for some time, and I pitched the idea of having it as a restaurant to my mum and she told me to go for it. So I set up the restaurant, Gloucester Studio, in January 2015 and it’s gone really well.

So it’s a restaurant in a hut? That sounds interesting!

It’s a Kota Grill Hut from Scandinavia and I think a lot of people in the UK first encounter them while on skiing holiday. I was looking for a home office and when visiting Malvern Spring Flower Show I walked in to one and all senses of practicality flew out the window and I said I wanted an office with a fire in the middle of it.

How would you describe Gloucester Studio?

It’s exclusive private hire only and you can have up to eight people. Everything is catered just for you; it’s very much about creating a party atmosphere, with almost all of my bookings for anniversaries, birthdays, and special occasions. You certainly can’t walk off the street; I’d been there in my pyjamas watching Grey's Anatomy!

What’s your style of cooking?

I’ve always loved cooking over fire. The Pyromaniac Chef has actually been my nickname for some time because I love any excuse to get out and light the fire pit! My own style of cooking isn’t so much barbecue style; it’s the restaurant side of cooking over fire.

Do you make a point to use local suppliers?

Very much so. I’m really passionate about the people who work in this area and I’ll do anything I can to raise the awareness of local suppliers. I buy pretty much all my meat from Nick Brown’s Butchers in Longlevens and I live within walking distance of Pound Farm Shop in Whaddon so I get a lot of my vegetables and cheeses from there.

What made you decide to write a cookbook?

Obviously there’s a limit to the number of covers you want to have in your own back garden so I started thinking about whether there was something I could do with food to create myself a career. That’s when I came across Crowdfunder and I thought perhaps I could write a cookbook so that’s what I’ve done.

Initially it’s going to be sold through the Crowdfunder website and then it will be available on my website and Amazon before I approach retail outlets.

Will the book focus solely on fire pit cooking?

Everything will be primarily worked out for cooking outside over a fire but every recipe will also be converted for cooking on a stove because I’m realistic and know that we live in England and everything doesn’t always go to plan.

Tell us about your MasterChef experience

Nothing scares you after you’ve been on MasterChef. It’s probably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done but I think I learnt more in the few episodes that I participated in than anything else.

Would you like to do star in other television cookery programmes?

I wouldn’t rule it out but I’d have to build up some confidence before going back in there. I’m fascinated by The Great British Bake Off but I could never do that; I’m very much a flavour chef and there are lots of subtleties to my cooking but if you ask me to ice a wedding cake…

Which chefs would you save have been influential?

In terms of people who I watch and admire, Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall book Meat have been very influential. For practical everyday supper meals, I love Nigella who’s just really good at what she does. It’s not silly or pretentious; it’s something you can get on the table in 20 minutes.

Who would be your ultimate guests in the studio?

For all that I don’t think I’m a refined baker, I think that Mary Berry would be a hilarious person to have some gin with. I think she’d be a laugh and I love the way she’s supportive yet critical.

Are there any restaurants you rate highly in Gloucestershire?

One of my favourite is Tiger's Eye in Gloucester especially as I got married there. We did the legal thing the day before and had a ceremony in one of their reception rooms.

I really love what Tank is doing at The Docks and for special occasions my husband and I both adore The Daffodil in Cheltenham.

And finally, what would be your last supper and why?

I would probably go for belly pork and pea purée to start off with. My favourite main course is chateaubriand steak with really good chips and then, I’m not a pudding person but I’d go for crème brûlée or crème caramel. I’d like a cheese board to follow and my current favourites are wild garlic Cornish yard, Hereford hop and Cerney Pyramid.

By Anna McKittrick

© SoGlos
Thursday 05 November 2015

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