We spend 10 minutes chatting to Andrew Baker, resident chef at Bakers & Larners in Holt, about his food passions, dietary awareness, and pairing wines with food.
I grew up in the industry as my parents owned the Cromer Grill for 23 years. I was well- heeled to the craft of cooking and hospitality after watching them work hard and provide for us as a family. I started a part-time course at Norwich City College Hotel School, being taught by some great chefs, such as Steve Thorpe. During this time, I was also working full time alongside my dad and sister in the kitchen. I was fortunate to work with some great local suppliers, including butcher Icarus Hines, where I spent some of my days off to learn butchery skills. I spent time with my lifelong friend Charlie Jonas, who comes from a crab fishing family dynasty. This is where I learnt about some of the great seafood available on our doorstep, as well as at Davies Fish Shop, which supplied many a crab and lobster.
Bakers & Larners
I have worked at Bakers & Larners of Holt for nearly four months, and I would describe it as having one of the biggest and best food pantries a chef could ask for! The award-winning Food Hall works with so many local suppliers and truly represents some of the best flavours Norfolk has to offer. Besides the local goods, it houses some incredible world-renowned food suppliers. My personal favourite feature in the Food Hall is the Delicatessen counter with its amazing local cheese and pie selection; it’s simply mind-blowing.
As a chef, it’s always been in my nature to seek out great suppliers and over the years, I have come across so many. I must mention Icarus, who, in my early years as a chef, taught me some amazing skills in customer service and butchery, as well as providing great meat to my family restaurant. I still love working with seafoods from both Davies Fish Shop and Jonas; they cannot be topped. Later, during my time as a hospitality coach and chef at The Feed CiC, I worked with homeless, long-term unemployed, and disadvantaged people. I met some amazing suppliers there who used their produce to help others.
Some of my personal favourites from Bakers & Larners Food Hall include Candi’s Chutney Parsnip and Chilli Chutney, a staple in my pantry. I also use cheese from Nortons Dairy to make a savoury parsnip cheesecake. During the summer months, I enjoy creating dishes with freshly picked strawberries and asparagus from The Tacons in Great Yarmouth, who are also a local supplier to our Food Hall. To top off my dishes, I always rely on edible flowers and micro herbs from Nurtured in Norfolk.
With great food comes great wines, and part of my role at Bakers & Larners is to create menus based on pairings, allowing the food and wine to complement each other. We spend a considerable amount of time researching the wines we feature, as our tasting dinners are highly anticipated evenings on the company’s event calendar. Our cellar houses over 1,000 different wines and therefore the possibilities are endless. Patrick Sewell, our in-house expert, has looked after our collection for
over 10 years. His knowledge of the weight and flavour of the wines, paired with our close relationship with suppliers, allows us to select the most outstanding tastes to create a memorable evening. The fun part is the taste testing of both elements of the menu until we achieve the perfect pairing. I can reveal I am currently working on butter-poached lobster and a Middle Eastern lamb dish to pair with our Bollinger Champagne evening and Château Musar dinner, respectively.
We have got an impressive line-up of both new and classic wines waiting to be showcased. The wine tasting dinners are great for guests to relax, compare tasting notes, and sample new foods that range from local delicacies to recipes from around the globe. We are also excited about the recent launch of Bakers Yard Café, a dog-friendly space that can be accessed directly from the Market Place. This makes it the ideal retreat for dog walkers, cyclists, and shoppers alike to refresh during a day exploring Holt. This venue has a very summery ambience, and we look forward to hosting our gin evenings there alongside the traditional venue of Number 10 Café.
My signature dishes would normally contain lamb – my favourite meat to work with. Seasonally, I’m particularly partial to creating local seafood dishes. Although I’m no pastry chef, I do also like to try my hand at desserts. A few favourite dishes of my repertoire include twice-baked cheese soufflé with Candi’s Chutney; pan-fried supreme of salmon with a butter shrimp sauce, Norfolk asparagus and crushed new potatoes; seared rump of lamb with a rich jus and dauphinoise potatoes; and blackberry bavarois.
In the past five years, I have had to cut out gluten and reduce the amount of dairy in my diet, so as well as adapting to new eating habits, it also opened my eyes to adapt to the dietary needs of others. I was lucky to come across Sara Matthews of Sara by Nature, who has assisted and inspired me in cooking gluten-free and vegan food.
I have been very fortunate in life to work with, and come across, so many amazing people in the food industry. I can whole-heartedly say that food is the common ground that anyone, whatever their background, can relate to and can break down so many barriers and stigmas in life. Being a chef provides a lifelong learning experience as well as a career!
- You can follow Andrew on Instagram @cheffy101
- For more information about Bakers & Larners, including their events, visit www.bakersandlarners.co.uk or follow them on Instagram @bakersandlarnersholt