I recently had an amazing opportunity to not only see some more of the world but also to work alongside Michelin starred chefs, Adam Byatt, Tom Kitchin and Fulvio Pierangelini in one of the world’s top resorts in Sicily.
I was very lucky to travel to the north of Italy a couple years ago with our Chef Director at bartlett mitchell, Pete Redman, to spend some time in the Michelin starred restaurant Duo Bulli. Here we worked with Marco Truffelli, who is a close friend of Wendy Bartlett, and we have kept in touch and worked together a few times since. Marco now runs the Verdura resort in Sicily, which is Forte premier resort and I have to say, it’s one of the most stunning places I have ever seen.
Adam Byatt, who is the chef consultant at bartlett mitchell, travels to the resort a few times a year to cook at the celebrated ‘six-hand dinner’ along with Tom Kitchin and Fulvio Pierangelini and this year I was invited along to help out!
On arrival, Adam, Fulvio, Owain (Trinity member ) and I sat down together and had lunch by the pool bar where we ate grilled swordfish with fennel and orange salad. Already my first thoughts were wow, what an amazing place I am at, such clear skies and great views. I took a second to think to myself; Will you’re from Reading, at one stage you wondered if you were cut out to be a chef! Although I know I couldn’t have got to where I am without the support of fellow chefs in bartlett mitchell who believed in me. They showed me that I am the only one who can make me better. If I hadn’t pushed for these opportunities I would be just coasting by, so all the hard work and commitment really pays off.
Fulvio talked to us about the vegetable garden they have and how they grow oranges and olives. Their homemade orange juice and olive oil was by far the best I have ever tasted. My only regret is not bringing some of the olive oil home to keep the memory going.
Day two – we all set out to Mazara del Vallo province of Trapani. Marco had organised a tour guide to give us an insight into the history of the town. On arrival we were greeted with, of course, wine and two types of snacks; one being tuna tartare and the other sword fish tartare. We had a walk through the Casbah, an Arab district with ceramics, wall paintings with small artworks from Muslim and Jewish cultures. We also visited the local fish market and had an introduction into the port area. The fish was so fresh it made me want to buy the lot! We then had a nice lunch of raw fish tasting at Antico Borgo Marinaro, a well-known restaurant/fish shop.
Once we arrived back that afternoon the work began, alongside Adam and his chef Owain. Adam’s menu was a set chawanmushi (savoury Japanese custard) with clams, pickled concasse tomato and flying fish roe with Verdura’s own olive oil, Bouillabaisse with croutons and rouille, and for dessert sliced fig, homemade ricotta cheese, fig ice-cream and fig oil with pistachios. I had the great pleasure of working with Adam and his chef Owain in the preparation of these dishes and being able to not only taste them but also learn some new techniques I would never have been able to do in my day role. I enjoyed the rush of service, being able to take charge and showcase myself, I just hope Adam and his chef Owain were happy with my dedication and willingness to push myself. Just being able to see something different keeps me hungry to learn new things. I can certainly say I will be trying to bring such dishes or some sort of elements of what I’ve learned and seen into our restaurants.
The dinner was over two nights and I just kept thinking to myself that I hoped Adam and the customers were happy with these dishes and my work. I was so proud of what I’d achieved. I can honestly say this experience will never leave me and has inspired me to always keep pushing myself. I am very lucky to work for a company such as bartlett mitchell which puts so much ethos not only behind their training but behind experiences like this. To think that in the last 2 years I have moved from Reading to London and back again, travelled to Italy twice, worked with some of the UK’s top Michelin starred chefs, cooked for three of them, won Chef of the Year and am now planning a gastronomic weekend in Copenhagen with our Chef Director Pete Redman and Adam Byatt! I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!
Chef of the Year