Extracts taken from Crumbs Magazine’s interview with our head chef, Jason McNeilly
When did you begin cooking?
Professionally in 2006, but I have always cooked, be it sitting on the kitchen work surface as a toddler making dough balls for stews with my mum, or helping my grandad clean mussels we had picked from rock pools. During my teens, Wednesday night would be my night to cook for my dad.
What first inspired you to cook professionally?
My dad was always a very creative cook at home. We wouldn't have fish and chips as a treat; we’d have marlin. He always encouraged trying and cooking foods outside of my comfort zone. Painting and drawing were always a big part of my life; growing up I found a world of creativity while cooking dinner for my dad so it seemed a natural marriage to let my creativity grow with my love of food and eating.
What was your very first job in the industry?
I started out washing dishes, constantly watching the chefs and getting involved with prep and service where i could, staying on after shifts and coming in early just to get the chance to learn. Quickly I was on service – straight in at the deep end.
Where might we know you from?
Zazus Kitchen modern European restaurant on Gloucester Road, Chin! Chin! Bar and Kitchen, a British restaurant doing everything from small taster plates and afternoon teas to á la carte and food markets.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Humble, filling and fun. I take a lot from French country food and bring in knowledge and tastes from my upbringing: my older sisters are half Chinese and I have family in India so I tend to take a lot of spices and inspiration from flavours I grew up with.
Bocabar is well-known for its pizzas, but what else can people expect on the menu here?
Smoked haddock kedgeree to pumpkin seed crushed hake – a mix of classic dishes and flavours from around the world. I am also looking to focus on vegan and vegetarian: and I have some lovely gluten-free and vegan black olive and sun-dried tomato croquettes on at the moment. The specials are regularly changing to keep dishes fresh and seasonal.
Current favorite flavour combination?
I've been playing a lot with smoke: smoked tomato and tarragon soup this week was lovely. Carraway and lemon has been another combination recently and lavender chocolate and chilli.
What sets your roasts apart, would you say?
I feel it's the little touches: infused oils for cooking the greens, a balance of spices with veg (carraway and nutmeg are regulars with my root vegetables) and smoked apple pureé with pork. Essentially, taking time to put love in to a British classic.
Favourite suppliers you use for the restaurant?
Style Farm butchers have some fantastic game and meats, Total Produce being right round the corner are always helpful and La Chasse are fantastic for all those niche products like smoked tofu, game and cheese.