Interview with The White Spoon’s chef director Chris White

Equal parts foodie and family man, SoGlos chats to The White Spoon’s chef director Chris White, discovering what drives the man behind Cheltenham’s chilled-out fine dining destination.

Undeniably one of the hotspots of Cheltenham’s foodie scene, The White Spoon is led by chef director, Chris White and supported by his partner Purdey Spooner.

Located in the heart of the town and serving up seasonal fine-dining dishes, Chris took a well-earned break from the kitchen to speak to SoGlos about how The White Spoon came to be, and why you shouldn’t ever feel intimidated about eating in his restaurant.

Your love of food developed very early on, was there a specific moment where you realised it was your passion?

My interest in food developed out of necessity rather than anything else! In my teens my Dad’s idea of dinner was beans on toast, (which I hate by the way) and if we wanted anything else we had to do it ourselves.
My first proper job in the kitchen was again, a means to an end – cheffing in France during the ski season. I wanted to snowboard and it gave me a way to do so. However, during this time I realised that the pressure of the kitchen, the creativity and camaraderie really played to my strengths, and from then on, I was hooked.

What was your background prior to launching The White Spoon?

After returning from France, I continued to work and learn in a variety of fine and casual dining establishments. I strongly believe it’s not necessarily where you’ve worked but the people that you’ve worked with that inspire you.
My first professional chef role was in a chef-owned restaurant, much like The White Spoon. Keith, the chef patron would be in the kitchen every day, and never missed a service – it was his business so everything had to be right.
From there, I worked for two years at the Hind’s Head in Bray, then Lainston House, and then a few gastropubs in the Cotswolds along the way.

What was it like working in the prestigious Fat Duck group and did you ever work with Heston?

Hard work! It’s exactly as you would expect working in a kitchen of that calibre; long hours and highly pressured, but hugely rewarding. I got to work with some of the best ingredients in the world, produce outstanding dishes and work with some amazing chefs.

The White Spoon has a very interesting ethos, not wanting to be seen as pretentious. How did that come about?

Simply because neither Purdey or I are that, and The White Spoon reflects us. We’ve tried to create a restaurant where everyone feels comfortable, foodie or not. It is a place where we would like to go and eat ourselves.
We’ve tried to create an atmosphere that suits both formal and informal occasions, as an alternative to fine dining.
The most intimidating thing about fine dining can be when you feel that the waiting staff are looking down on you because you don’t know your Cabernet Sauvignon from your Pinot Noir! Therefore, one of our not-so-secret, secrets is our fantastic front of house team; they are attentive without being intrusive, and always around to answer questions and make our guests feel at ease.

Why did you choose Cheltenham as a location to launch The White Spoon?

We loved visiting the town for weekend breaks and always thought about relocating here. It is a town that supports indie operations, be that restaurants or shops. And Cheltonians seem to love one off’s, which was important to us too.

Where do you get your ideas for The White Spoon’s ever-changing menu?

What is in season has a large impact, plus we try to use local produce where possible. But in terms of the ideas for the dishes, the inspirations come from everywhere. I love foraging and am an avid reader of cookbooks. Nowadays social media, especially Instagram, helps to give me ideas when I’m trying to create new dishes.

Do you ever see The White Spoon expanding or opening another restaurant?

Perhaps one day, but we have a lot here we still want to achieve.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my family. I generally work long hours, so it’s nice to switch off and have fun with our little girl. We spend a lot of time in Pittville Park, and Monday night is always homemade Pizza night – she loves helping Daddy!

What would you say to someone concerned about trying fine dining for the first time?

Don’t ever be intimidated, and if you don’t know what something is then ask. Better that than ending up with a plate of something you aren’t going to eat or drink!
If you want to experience the same level of service, food and wine as you would in a fine dining restaurant, but prefer a more relaxed environment then The White Spoon is for you.

For more information call (01242) 228555, or visit directly.

© SoGlos
Thursday 01 November 2018

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