We took a few minutes out over a coffee with our fabulous new head Chef, James Flavell, and asked him a few questions about his approach to and style of cooking.
L: Describe your style?
J: Being a self taught chef it’s hard to pin point a style that I follow. I just cook what I like to eat. However, I would say I tend to gravitate towards bold flavours and multiple forms of seasoning. I love to use spices and deep robust ingredients like Miso and other ferments.
I like to plate my dishes so you can see every ingredient on the plate. I am not a fan of piling things on a plate. I think it’s very important that the eater can sample every element singularly and also with other parts of the dish.
Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing?
I’d have to say the hot smoked salmon salad as all the elements have a fair amount of technique to them but at the same time the dish remains clean and simple. Hot smoked salmon is very rich and meaty, so the other elements have to work in harmony. The garnish for the dish consists of honey and thyme roast salsify which we make sure is heavily coated in butter before seeing any heat! We then pickle red grapes at least 2 weeks ahead of time so they then become as sour as they are sweet. That acidity plays a crucial part in the dish as it offsets the richness of the salmon. Further acidity comes with the frisee lettuce which we dress simply with extra virgin olive oil lemon juice and Maldon sea salt. The plate is then finished with a lemon grass and tofu dressing which marries all the other flavours together. To me this is the perfect salad because it’s super fresh, light and filling enough at the same time.
What ingredient/s could you not cook without?
I’d have to say shallots and garlic for everyday cooking. There’s so many dishes I start by sweating off shallots and garlic. I tend to use banana shallots over white onions because they are more consistent when getting a super fine and uniform cut, and they don’t make me cry as much! Aside from that, I definitely couldn’t live without chilli, ginger and lime and lemongrass. Asian flavours are my favourite because they are uplifting and colourful.
What would be your idea of a perfect meal?
10 course Asian tasting menu with lots of surprises and unusual ingredients, plus drinks pairing of course! I am not a cheap date!
What is the most daring thing you have ever tried?
I’d probably have to say the deep fried bugs I ate in Thailand. I’ve eaten a whole range of obscure meats too, like crocodile, kangaroo, shark, snails, frogs, and also camel!
Your best culinary idea?
My best culinary idea was to teach myself how too cook, without focusing too much on the ‘rule book’ and accepting that I’d make a lot of mistakes in order to learn.
Where did you train and what is the most valuable piece of advice you have received as a chef?
I’ll be honest; I’ve never formally trained under any acclaimed chefs. Most of my training comes from my own research. From Youtube to watching something on Master chef or Great British Menu and then giving it a try at home.
My home kitchen now has a dehydrator, a water-bath, epsuma guns, and other gadgets!
I’d also say eating out a LOT really helps, and not being scared to ask the chefs how they created parts of the dishes i’ve eaten.
The next food trend?
Oh thats hard to say, because it now feels like everything has been done. Maybe a ‘Deliveroo’ type service but for Michelin Star restaurants, for the rich and lazy!
Whose cooking do you admire?
I specifically admire other self taught chefs that have managed to open their own restaurants and now cook at the highest level; people like James Close of the 2 star restaurant ‘Raby Hunt’ and Tommy Banks of the ‘Black Swan’ in Oldstead.
What are your plans for Lost in the Lanes?
I plan for LOST to become the best cafe/bistro in Brighton! Offering an ever changing seasonal menu and the best breakfast going! We also plan to open some evenings to do various curated events including supper clubs, food and drink pairings and guest chef nights.
What can we expect to see on the menu moving into winter?
Well autumn is probably my favourite season when it comes to food. Recently we put on a unique mushroom dish as a special which included pulled oyster mushrooms, mushroom ketchup, pickled mushrooms and tapioca crackers so the might return on the main menu. We might even stick some game on the menu too.