Today we are chatting to Elisabeth Passédat, Masterchef The Professional 2018 quarter finalist, and freshly appointed Head Chef at The Cleveland Arms. Elisabeth, originally from Paris, honed her skills at kitchens including Pierre Koffmann at The Berkeley and Bar Bouloud at the Mandarin Oriental.

Elisabeth Passédat

Hello Elisabeth– thank you for being with us today. We have been following you since your first appearance in Masterchef 2018. How has your life as a cook changed since then?
As a cook, I gained much more confidence and I got a real buzz from this experience. It’s like the sky is the limit now and I’m living my passion.

Your cooking style comes has deep French roots with Asian and South American influences. How do you test the quality of the fresh produce you use in your recipes?
I am keeping a good relationship with my suppliers so they let me know what produce is at its best, depending on the seasons.

Who and what have influenced your cooking the most?
I have been working in different kinds of restaurants and it is all the diversity I have encountered which is influencing my style now.
About my personal connection with cooking, my dad would be the first person to make me feel ashamed about myself if I was wasting any food. Some years later, I went to work for Mr Pierre Koffmann at The Berkeley Hotel, and that gave me a big push to focus on the flavours, rather than adding a pointless element on a dish just for the look of it.
I had the opportunity to work with very strong minded and passionate head chefs who contributed to develop more my passion with the years passing. Helena Puolakka is the one who advised me when I took the position at The Cleveland Arms : “Just do what you like”. Hopefully others will like too !

You have recently joined the team at The Cleveland Arms as Head Chef. What would be the one dish we should absolutely try out off your menu?
If you like lamb, I would recommend to try the lamb rump with Jersey royals and umami de mar, which is a powder made from the evaporation of the mussels’ cooking juice.
We blitz butter with this powder and serve with chicken jus, which makes me want to dip some bread in.
If you are more adventurous, frog legs bonbons are coming back on the menu soon.
I’m French after all!

How do you keep up to date with the latest food trends?
I usually check the social media and chefs’ magazines.
I like to see what is happening in the Michelin starred restaurants, because this is where you can find out about the latest cooking techniques.
On the other hand, I find it very interesting reading lifestyle magazines that guide me to understand what guests will might ask for; the advantage is that it makes me, as a chef, developing dishes that I would never have thought of.
However, it is important not to get lost in all these trends and to keep your own identity and beliefs.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
If you are the type of chef who is passionate about cooking, don’t think about the hours, the money and the T.V. shows – all the hard work will be paid for if you go in the right places.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A spoon. Otherwise, how can you taste what you are cooking?

What are you most excited about right now in the food scene?
I like the development of the more social and responsible restaurants and how to manage the waste production.
The way I see it, is that the focus now is still on the food itself but finally the environmental issues are starting to take a bigger part in the restaurants’ marketing.
The way we are eating is being questioned and it is opening new horizons for chefs.

Where would you take your out of town guests for a memorable meal?
I would probably take them to Bistrot Vadouvan. I love the Indian flavours combined with French cooking and the dishes are beautiful for a reasonable price.

Your favourite 5 minute recipe?
Well, it takes me 5 minutes to season a whole chicken, stuff it with thyme, garlic, put four jacket potatoes in the same tray and blanch a bunch of tenderstem broccoli. 5 minutes to prep, 50 minutes to relax and my favourite lazy recipe is ready!

Fill in the blank: If I weren’t a chef I’d be…
A diplomat.
I like to discover other cultures and I’m very glad I can do it through cooking.

What does the future hold for Elisabeth Passédat?
It all depends on the opportunities; my dreams are big !