Read Online - Viva Brighton

Raviolo of Brighton Blue
Combining his passion for local food and his experience of cooking on
three continents, Semolina chef Orson Whitfield tries out a new dish...
I moved to England 15 years ago, from Atlanta,
Semolina is named after probably the most used
Georgia. Before that I’d lived in Liberia, and in
ingredient in Italy. It means ‘half-milled’ and when
Italy before that. I’ve only cooked professionally in
ground down to a finer flour it’s used to make
England, but I’ve been cooking at home since my
pasta, like the raviolo I’m making today. For this
teenage years. My parents both worked and I’m the
dish I’m using 00-grade flour, which is finer than
oldest of four siblings, so I was given the respon-
plain white. I mix it together with eggs, a pinch of
sibility of making dinner for the family. My mum’s
sea salt and a little olive oil to form a pastry, and
Italian and Ethiopian, my dad’s West African, and
then roll it out into a sheet and cut out the two
they both cooked at home – we rarely ate out.
sides of the raviolo using a pastry cutter. Next I
When I started studying, I was quite old compared
fill the parcel with Brighton Blue cheese, a little
to most students – everyone else was 16 and I was
oregano and some puréed potato, to help keep the
26. I took a Hospitality Management degree, which
structure of the raviolo and to stop the cheese from
included an industrial placement year at a hotel.
melting out when it’s cooked. These just need to
I was supposed to have training in three different
be blanched in salted water for a few minutes just
departments, the first being food. After one week
before serving.
there I went back to my course supervisor and told
We change our menu every month, based on what’s
him that I loved being in the kitchen, and that that
in season. This week I got an e-mail from our local
was where I wanted to be. He told me that it was
vegetable supplier saying that they’d have plenty of
my decision, but that it might be more difficult for
purple sprouting broccoli for a bit, so I’ve incorpo-
me, being a bit older. I decided to go off anyway
rated it into this dish for our February menu.
and see how long I could last in the chef world.
The cauliflower purée – made with cooked cauli-
That was in 2001.
flower, a little milk and butter - forms the first of
I went on to work at the Runnymede Hotel in
the three textures of brassica, topped with a drizzle
Egham, where I met my [Czech] wife Linda,
of sage butter to add a bit of flavour. The second
and then at the Wharf restaurant in Teddington,
texture is the kale, which is fried to a crisp, and the
where I learned a lot about the business side of
third is the purple sprouting broccoli, which has
the industry and the day-to-day running of the
been blanched, refreshed in ice water, and then
kitchen. When we came to Brighton, Linda and
sautéed. To finish, I toast some chopped walnuts in
I were looking for a place to run ourselves, and
salt and sugar, and sprinkle them over the dish.
we thought the best way to do this would be to
I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually tried this one yet...
franchise pub kitchens; I would do the cooking and
I only thought it up last night.
she would do the front of house. We managed the
kitchens at The Geese in Hanover and then The
As told to Rebecca Cunningham. Photo by Lisa Devlin,
Shakespeare’s Head near Seven Dials, before open-
whose food-photography website is
ing our own restaurant in November.