Why I love being a chef……..

This weekend I produced canapes and a three course meal for a client celebrating a significant birthday. Working with my wine expert partner, Alistair Cooper, the evening had everything. A tour around the world in the selection of the wines and a varied menu which I think also reflected the experience and range of the 10 guests also celebrating with the host.

It was a fabulous experience for me, with the challenge of cooking in a totally unfamiliar kitchen and work space, it meant that the whole evening was spontaneous. Alistair talked about the wines, why he selected them based on the menu and the client’s travels around the world. The guests, all great foodies, and experts enjoyed the scene setting before each course, with a little bit of explanation of some of the dishes as required. The enthusiasm for the wine and food was visible, with the result that there was little wasted. I have not seen plates that devoid of leftovers in a long time!

Here is the menu with the wine choices below each course.


Chicken Galatine

Smoked Trout and Horseradish Cream on Dill Scones

Jansz Sparkling Vintage 2006



Smoked Chicken and Cream Cheese Verrine

Three Peppers and Feta Wrapped in a Grilled Courgette

Loimer Gruner Veltliner 2012, Austria
McWilliams Lovedale Semillon, 2005, Hunter Valley, Australia 


Halibut Steak with a Caribbean Salsa

Mint crusted Rack of Lamb


Salad of Seasonal Leaves

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Peas and Pancetta with Onion and Garlic

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, NZ
Lammershoek Cellarfoot Underwater Syrah 2011, Swartland, South Africa
Penfolds Grange 1991, South Australia


Limoncello Crème Brulee with Hazelnut Crisp

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream

Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria 2009, Sicily

 A few pictures here as well to give a little sample of the flavour of the food and wine served.

Lemoncello Creme Brulee

Lemoncello Creme Brulee

Minted Rack of Lamb

Minted Rack of Lamb

Wines for Client Dinner

Wines for Client Dinner

The evening was so much fun and our client had a great time which is the result that Alistair and I were aiming for. The chance to cook and provide both wine and food freshly cooked worked extremely well. We both enjoyed the experience, as much as we hope our clients did.

These evenings are why I really enjoy my job and passion, seeing the two most important elements come together in a way that is appreciated and enjoyed makes the effort, hard work totally worthwhile. A big thank  to our client for giving us the opportunity to be part of the celebrations and contributing to what was a special evening!.

Last week I mostly cooked………

Its been a very busy time and my cooking last week started with four tiers for a wedding cake.

However, not a cake but a pork pie cake. Making four tiers or four large pork pies that were to be stacked and presented as part of a wedding celebration was I must admit a bit of a novelty to me but having looked on the web and found a number of butchers etc, who not only make the pork pies but also provide the full service of stacking and dressing the pies, opened my eyes to a new area of catering. I understand large rounds of  cheeses are also used in a similar way.

It seems odd to call it a cake but I suppose it sometimes replaces the traditional wedding cake or it is an addition to the menu at the larger reception that follows the meal after a wedding these days. In many ways it is a great way of celebrating a traditional dish as part of a traditional ceremony in a modern age. It may also hark back to the day when expensive food was not an option and when the more traditional home made recipes held a valued part of our diets and lives.

I enjoyed the process of making the pies. The mix of the meat used a number of cuts:- diced shoulder, minced shoulder, diced belly, hock and streaky bacon. Mixed together with spices and herbs to create a wonderful flavour and marrying well with the meat.

20130408-075508 AM.jpg

This picture shows the inspiration of making the pork pies had on me! I made 3 larger pork pies and 10 individual pork pies for the markets I was at, East Oxford Farmers Market on Saturday and Wolvercote Farmers Market on Sunday. I also made a Chicken and Ham Hock raised pie. I sold out, fabulous! It tells me that there is  an interest in traditional recipes made with local produce. Thanks to all those who bought a piece of my pies.

I am expecting a photo from my client of the pork pies dressed for the wedding. When I get it I will write more about it and put the photo on the blog. My client was happy with the pies as there was over 8KG of pork pie and all of it was eaten on the night!

Start of a new year…..

I haven’t been one for new years resolutions but this year I have made a different start to this year. I had a private event for 80 on the 5th January.  It was a great start to the year in every way. The clients reaction was so positive and made me feel that the hard work and the time taken to prepare for the event was reflected in what was served. It re-affirmed the approach I take to cooking and to my clients, deliver the best through hard work and attention to detail.

I also had a tutoring day at the WI Cookery School which I was nervous about but I need not have worried. The class made me feel very at home and they all enjoyed cooking the recipes given the comments at the end of the day. I am looking forward to doing more this year. The facilities at the school are wonderful and the best bit for me is that all the ingredients are all ready prepared which makes a chefs life so much easier when demoing a recipe. Wish I could have that service available to me every day!


I plan to post all of  the recipes I prepare for my monthly broadcasts on BBC Radio Oxford here on my blog over the next few weeks. I have a growing selection which I hope you will find useful. Some are available on my FaceBook page at FaceBook.com/thelatechef . I would really appreciate feedback on any of the recipes you try so please email me paul@thelatechef.com .

2013 promises to be a great year and I look forward to working with all my regular clients and my new ones.

I hope  2013 is a great year for you.

Is Cooking work or art?

I have been asked many times what do I do for a living. I generally take the line of least resistance and say caterer. I am now beginning to think that this term doesn’t really cover it all. Looking at a number of my recent clients events I have organised music, marquees, tables, chairs, crockery, glasses, cutlery etc. None of these are cooking. Some may be connected to cooking but in reality they have nothing to do with the process of cooking.

So what should I call myself?

My business card says “Chef and Jolly Nice Chap” which I hope most people will recognise. But does it cover the real business of cooking? I am a great fan of  Franck Pontais. Many will not have heard of Franck. He is a chef who learned his craft in Paris and is now in the UK making a name for himself with Verrines and Terrines. This is his trademark and his book of the same name is fabulous. He now calls himself a Kitchen Artist. When you look at his creations in the book you will understand why.

Mullet and Mussel Verrine cooked at the Oxford Foodie Festival 2012

My chef heroes include Raymond Blanc, Thomas Keller, Gary Rhodes, Gary Jones, and writers such as Elizabeth David. Many more chefs and writers books are on my bookshelf. I use many of them regularly to help me create dining experiences for my clients.
These chefs and writers convey their passion for food, ingredients and regions where great recipes are handed down and developed still. Many of them I would call a “Kitchen Artist” because once the techniques and technical processes are completed the result still comes down to the presentation and appeal of the food on the plate!

Pear Poached in Beetroot Jus with Plums

Pear Poached in Beetroot Jus with Baked Plums

I broadcast regularly on BBC Radio Oxford and in providing the recipes based on seasonality, availability and simplicity I find that cooking live on air has a level of immediacy which adds to the recipe, hopefully making it more real for the listener. Part of this process is about being creative and also making sure that the recipes have that key element, they are easy to do at home.

Lemoncello Creme Brulee with Redcurrants

Lemoncello Creme Brulee with Redcurrants

Well perhaps calling myself a Kitchen Artist might raise an eyebrow with a number of close friends and family but I think describing myself as a caterer does not do what I do justice. I will certainly describe myself as a Chef and look for some other name that reflects not only the process of cooking but also the creativity of cookery. Let me know if you have any suitable alternatives for the term, Chef. Look forward to hearing from you.

Oh, by the way,  I have  started to publish a series of illustrated recipe guides on Amazon for the Kindle. Have a look in the Kindle Shop searching on Paul Bellchambers.

Press coverage and other ways to promote what you do

Having worked in large corporate environments, marketing to both external and internal audiences, and now for my fledgling business,  I would argue that the same basic principles apply in the small business world as well. Press coverage is tricky and can backfire if you aren’t careful, however, in my experience I have be fortunate to generate more interest and real business through press and media coverage than through any paid advertising.

Examples of this are the profile that Maggie Hartford of the Oxford Times wrote, http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/business/4853344.A_happy_chef/ .

Plus the articles on Pork Pies!



Plus the radio interview on BBC Radio Oxford on Jo Thoenis Afternoon Show earlier this year, which was a lot of fun to do! I was on the show again recently to promote the birthday celebrations for the local market I sell my product at.

Recently, I have made a big effort with the social media thing to start building an online presence which will expand the awareness and potential business opportunities for me. I continue to concentrate on the market and doing local events which will get my product in front of as many people as possible.

There are other ways apart from press, social media etc,  to extend the reach of the business. One example is getting involved with other organisations such as the local district council and business support organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses, BusinessLink and others like the PRIME Initiative.

The PRIME Initiative is a charity set up HRH Prince Charles to help over 50s set up/start and grow their businesses. I first came across the organisation on the web when I was looking at starting The Late Chef. I read through articles and guides on their website www.primeinitiative.co.uk which helped me with planning and how to go about getting started.

I have been invited to present the story of The Late Chef at a PRIME event at the British Library on the 30th September. I am extremely excited about this as I hope I can explain my experiences and the benefits I have found being self-employed.

I also hope that this opportunity to promote the business will allow me to reach a wider audience and generate some new business opportunities.

Will let you know how it goes.