Originally from Brittany in France, Richard trained as a baker from the age of 14. After stints as a head chef at various award-winning restaurants and a period working with Jean-Christophe Novelli, he refocused on patisserie and baking. In September 2005, The Bertinet Kitchen opened its doors, the school offers a range of relaxed and fun courses for food lovers of all abilities and specialist baking and bread making courses for amateurs and professionals alike. Here, we chat to Richard about his career, his role in bringing back The Great Bath Feast, as well as helping others discover baking during lockdown.
Many congratulations on helping bring 'The Great Bath Feast' back to life. For those that are new to the festival, or indeed remember the previous years events, what can we expect and what makes it different this year?
Well my first thought is how great it is going to be to see the city’s streets busy and vibrant again. We will have a mix of fabulous local chefs who are doing really great things, Nathan Outlaw is coming up from Cornwall and then we have Ulrika Jonsson who is a real foodie and who took part in Celebrity Masterchef a few years back.
You’ve pulled together a fantastic array of star’s, many who will be familiar faces around Bath. With everything that has happened over the past 18 months, how easy/difficult has it been to secure a date and then make sure everyone is available?
Our focus has really been on some of our amazing local talent and everyone has been great about giving up their time. That is not to underestimate how difficult it is for everyone. There is so much pressure on the hospitality industry at the moment - recruitment is a real issue and there are a few people we would have loved to have with us but who cannot join us.
We've been through a tumultuous time, but great food and drink has a way of brining people and communities together. Was this one of the driving forces behind the return of the festival?
The pandemic has been an enormous challenge for everyone but we really hope this will put a smile on everyones faces and hopefully people coming along will discover a local gem that they have not experienced before and which they can enjoy supporting going forward.
So is there something for everyone at the event, whether you are a seasoned cook or developing your skills and knowledge?
Definitely, there will be some lovely simple dishes to inspire people but we will also be diving a bit deeper, for example with Gavin Edney’s demo (from the Elder) where he will be looking at venison.
I noticed that one of the most popular things to do during lockdown was cook, and in particular bake (especially banana bread very early on). Did you use the time to hone your skills, or attempt any new recipes?
I wasn’t able to teach in person so I kept baking at home and posted lots of clips on Instagram and Facebook. Hopefully it inspired a few people to bake a bit more. Baking was an incredibly soothing experience for many people during the pandemic. So many people discovered or re-discovered it and I hope they will continue to bake as things return to normal
Besides being in the kitchen, did you try any new hobbies?
A little slowing down and remembering to breathe - you could call it mindfulness or meditation. But I also had a new Gozney pizza oven too so there was a lot of baking and cooking in that to discover!
I’m sure one of the aims of the festival is to encourage more people to get into cooking. Do you remember your earliest memories of being in the kitchen, and did those early memories help shape your passion for food?
More than just learning to cook or bake the festival is about enjoying eating and sharing… looking forward to getting back out in restaurants and being part of a vibrant community. I have lots of childhood memories of food from my mother and grandmother and some of the recipes I cook now are from those days or at least inspired by them.
How was food/cooking taught at school when you were younger? And, if you could change anything to the way we teach it in schools now, what would you change?
Sadly there was very little in the way of food teaching when I was at school. I wish there was more today in most schools - it is so important for kids to learn about good food and nutrition and not everyone is lucky enough to be taught at home.
Now that restrictions are being lifted, what local restaurants and eateries are you looking forward to trying out most?
I have a number of firm favourites that I really enjoy visiting regularly but there are lots more good places that I haven’t yet managed to get to - just too much work! I am particularly looking forward to trying Bar Breton for a taste of home and one of Castle Farm’s curry nights.
Finally, are there any plans on a 7th book, and if so, what would be the theme of it? Maybe a memoir?
I have always wanted to spend some time travelling and writing about the culture of bread around the world. I was lucky enough to spend some time in Morocco in 2020 before the pandemic and was able to bake with some of the villagers in the Atlas Mountains. It was the most magical experience and I would like to do more of that once the world opens up again.
The Bertinet Kitchen Ltd
12 St Andrews Terrace, Bath, BA1 2QR
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