We speak to @ChequersBath Head Chef, Ross Harper, about his career, coming to The Chequers, and what we can expect this autumn season.
The Chequers on Rivers Street recently announced the arrival of its new Head Chef, Ross Harper.
The 38-year-old chef brings a wealth of experience from respected pubs and restaurants across the country to the much-loved city centre gastropub. Here, he talsk to Craig Maplesden about his career, coming to The Chequers, and what we can expect this autumn season.
Congratulations on your recent appointment. Tell us a little about your career.
Having grown up in Bristol, I started working part-time as a kitchen porter and a waiter while studying, the flexible hours of catering worked well for me. I quickly learned to love it and ended up becoming a fulltime chef.
I developed my cooking skills in variety of kitchens in the region, including a stint as sous chef at The Mill at Rode before heading for London in 2008 to take up the position of sous chef at the 2AA rosette St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar by Searcys. This 200-cover Art Deco style restaurant and open-air champagne bar was constantly busy and provided a great foundation for becoming Head Chef and founding partner at the acclaimed gastropub, The Woodman in Highgate, in 2011. That kept me busy for six very successful years, before joining The Chequers earlier this year.
When did you realise you wanted to become a chef, and who has been your biggest influence?
About the age of 17 I was a KP and waiter in a old stately home called Chewton place. This is where I first tasted stuff there like crème brulee and Pimms that were left over from weddings and events.
I used to watch the chefs and had a friend working in the kitchen and it just looked exciting, cool and creative. That was when I got the real bug for it.
My biggest influence was my head chef Graham at The Thatched cottage in Somerset in my early 20’s. We would write a new menu everyday there. He was full of knowledge and I got a buzz from everything he taught me.
What are your earliest memories of food?
This is where I get a bit Nigel Slater, but my grandad grew all kinds of stuff in his garden which I spent lots of summers in picking things and then cooking with my Nan. Slicing Runner beans, watching how to string onions, picking & stewing gooseberries, pastry for apple pie and making cornflake cakes (my favourite). I remember ham hock boiling, fresh curly parsley sauce, drying out sage for homemade stuffing, smells of rosemary and lavender from the garden.
How excited are you to have joined The Bath Pub Company and in particular The Chequers?
I loved eating at the Marlborough Tavern and knew the Hare pretty well before I moved to London. I lived just around the corner and remember what the chequers was like a long time ago. An amazing transformation.
On my return to the area I’d interviewed with the bosses of BPC. They had kept in touch over a year or two to discuss opportunities and when the Chequers came up I jumped at the chance. I have followed what they have been doing here for a long time and it feels like a great fit for me now.
How would you describe your style and food ethos?
Creative, British seasonally inspired food with the emphasis on Flavour first.
The Chequers has always had an excellent name for food. What will you be bringing to the menu?
I’m still new to the team but we are developing a menu of quality dishes. Fairly classic seasonal ingredients with a twist that look and taste great. We hope to make it special but not too fussy, fresh tastes that people understand.
How important is it to consider the region as well as the pub setting when designing a menu?
It’s almost vital to my style as I aim to cook seasonal, British food. I think customers want to know more about where the food has come from, so It just makes sense if you can get local, less travelled, fresher food whilst building relationships with your region, customers and suppliers.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2019 at The Chequers?
We are evolving our menus now for summer which we are just launching. We are all set for Christmas offers and ready to get booked up. We have a weekend menu in August in association with Wing our fish supplier, showcasing the fantastic seafood brought fresh from Cornwall.
Finally, if you could hold a dinner party for 5 people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?
Well, as a huge music, football, comedy, film & food fan this is tricky. I could probably have started a weekly supper club with this but if pushed I’ve gone with Jurgen Klopp firstly. Manager of the My team Liverpool because he is one of the most charismatic and coolest guys ever as well as being the boss. I just had to get him in. Paul Weller is my music hero And the Modfather so he’s got to be there.
I loved watching The Trip series with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and the foodie and funny side to the show. I also adored the Gone Fishing trip with Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer for the same reasons. So, I picked my favourite from both show as I didn’t want to take up 4 spaces. Steve Coogan and Bob Mortimer – super funny foodies.
Now on the foodie side I’m stuck and spoilt for choice. I’m a huge fan of chefs like Phil Howard, Mark Hix, Richard Corrigan because of their style. But as it’s anyone dead or alive I want to bring back Anthony Bourdain for a slap up meal and night of fun. I see him as a the punk rock star of food and anyone who has read his books like kitchen confidential will agree he’s a great story teller.