Stacey Sheppard talks to Gary Sharpe, Head Chef at The Breakwater Bistro in Brixham
Gary Sharpe worked in a number of local Devon eateries before settling at The Breakwater Bistro in Brixham, where he serves up a simple menu using the best ingredients.
What or who influenced you to become a chef?
I have been cooking professionally for over 20 years now. I trained with Head Chef Alex Koliandris for four years at The Royal Dart Hotel in Kingswear. After this I became Sous Chef and then later Head Chef at Churston Court, near Brixham. My early influences were probably the likes of Gary Rhodes and Keith Floyd; I liked both their simple styles and loyalty to good-quality local ingredients.
How would you describe your approach to food and cooking?
Keep it simple. The way to get the best flavours out of your ingredients is not to over-complicate a dish, to keep the elements to a minimum.
Describe a typical day at The Breakwater Bistro.
There really is no such thing as an average day at The Breakwater. Most days start with making sure we have enough fresh scones, pastries and pasties for our coffee shop. After this, with anything up to 150 breakfasts and between 150 to 250 covers in our bistro daily, prep is a major part of our morning. Once we get to the lunchtime service It will then be pretty much non-stop until last orders in the evening. Having a strong kitchen team is essential, and everybody here works flat out during out high season.
What type of food do you serve?
We have dishes ranging from freshly battered catch of the day to more complex dishes like our freshly made paellas and fish curries. We have a loyal following for our char-grill specialities like sticky ribs and steaks.
What are your favourite locally sourced ingredients and why?
Obviously, working in Brixham, I do try to give emphasis to daily fresh fish from the world-famous Brixham fish market. However, being in Devon, we're lucky to have some of the best locally produced meat and vegetables in the country.
What ingredients are you using in the restaurant at the moment?
We change the menu here twice a year but always try to stay as seasonal as possible with all our vegetables. Just recently, the local scallop beds have become available after being closed for six months so we are being supplied some of the best local hand-dived scallops. Also, a lot of the local boats are now back at sea after their summer refits so fish is more plentiful than it has been over the summer months. Both of these things feature heavily on our daily specials board, with dishes like pan-fried scallops in wild mushroom and dill sauce or a herb crusted roast turbot fillet.
Where do you enjoy eating in Devon?
I have recently had some nice meals in Lemon Jelli in Newton Abbot.
Who is your Devon food hero?
I think I'm probably a bit long in the tooth to have any particular food heroes, but I always appreciate a chef who champions locally produced foods and as such I like to keep an eye on the likes of local chefs like Simon Hulstone. Any top tips for budding chefs? Learn the basics: once you have a good handle on them, and with perseverance, you should soon become a competent chef.
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