We are talking today with Matt Burr the proprietor and Chef at Burrs Restaurant in Lugley Street, Newport.
Thank you for meeting with us today Matt. Today we are here to talk with you for Chefs Corner and we are going to ask you a few questions about yourself and your beautiful restaurant Burrs.
So what is your signature dish ?
I would have to say it is our Crab and Spinach Brulee. It is something we have done for about 12 years now and we haven’t changed the recipe at all because it has always been popular. It’s good.
I know that you are always working, but when you do find the time to drag yourself away from the kitchen, what is your favourite place to eat out on the island?
I would have to say that when I do go out it has to be a child friendly place as I always have my two little ones with me. It is often Pizza Express or The Crown at Shorewell or places like that. Certainly Kid Friendly.
Well as you know, we do a kid friendly part of The Menu Venue so I am sure that if ever you were stuck on somewhere that you could take your kids, we could help you on that!
In your many years as a chef, what has been the strangest food that you have eaten yourself?
I think it has got to be when I was in Paris. I ordered a Spaghetti Bolognese but when it came out there was a very strange taste to it and it was almost like it was off, although it wasn’t actually off – I think it might have been horse although that wasn’t what was on the menu.
But did it taste nice though?
Well I ate it all, I was very hungry!
So continuing along the food theme, what is your favourite food that you would consider to be a sin food?
It would have to be my weakness, which is probably crisps. Salt and Vinegar crisps. Doesn’t matter what brand as long as they are really vinegary I really don’t care. I have been known to eat six packets between getting in the car at the supermarket and getting home. I’m not really so keen on McCoy’s as they are a bit too crunchy for me.
What is the most eventful meal you have ever prepared?
I used to run Brading Haven Yacht Club on the catering side and I did this Italian night there and I decided for about 60 people that I would cook it all in the dining room in front of them. I had some Calor Gas stoves put into the restaurant and I came out and I cooked the lot in front of them. Between each course I put another cushion down my chefs’ jacket and during the night I got gradually fatter. By the time I got to the desert , which was a Baglioni, I could hardly make the whisk touch the bowl because I had so many cushions stuffed inside that I was so fat!. It was a really good night and it was fun. We had hung across the room some string and I put red, green and white napkins to look like the Italian flag, but it looked like there was washing on the line so when you sat in there it looked like we were having a street party. Although it was a good fun night to do, I think that perhaps in hindsight I shouldn’t have tried to cook for them all in front of them on Calor Gas stoves because it was quite tricky at a couple of points in the evening. Strangely enough I didn’t have any comments about the cushions, someone thought I was pregnant because they didn’t get the fact I was supposed to be a fat Italian Chef.
So you’re obviously a Chef by trade, when you get home is it you that does all the cooking for your family?
No I don’t do very much no, my wife does most of it. She is a very good cook. Perhaps a guest chef….. She is very good at doing all the Thai’s and the Curry’s, all that sort of food, she is really brilliant of it. I am very lucky. We do eat quite a lot of those but whatever she cooks is always good anyway.
Do you have a favourite food to eat at home?
What is the one ingredient that you really don’t think you could live without when you are cooking?
Salt and Pepper definitely! You can’t cook without it. Very few dishes don’t require it. Nothing worse than having bland food.
In your years of being a chef and having people request different variations to your menus, what is the strangest meal that someone has asked you to prepare for them?
I have someone who comes in quite often, they always ask me for fillet steak with lemon and capers. They always have it. I haven’t tried it myself as it certainly isn’t something that would appeal to me at all.
In your opinion what is the most overrated ingredient?
I think that I would have to say Truffles. I think that they are so expensive. If you need the truffle taste you can use the truffle oil, I really don’t think you need to spend hundreds of pounds on a truffle. There is a lot of stigma that comes with a truffle, it is for the taste. When I have used them as an ingredient I have used truffle peelings which give the flavour but you just don’t leave them in. I must say I don’t use them very often, just because of the expense and that it why I would tend to think that they are a bit overrated.
Who is the chef that you most admire past or present?
On the Island or on the TV? I think that the chef at The royal, Ventnor, Alan Staley. I went to college with him and he has just gone from strength to strength. He has done really well and he is such a nice bloke. He has been at The Royal for about 20 years maybe now and he has kept the standard up and he has just always pushed for new ideas. Yes, he is certainly someone I admire, he is a good chef
When you were younger, did you always want to be a chef and if not what was your dream job?
I think I did always want to be a chef. One of my earliest memories is from when I was about 3 years old, sitting in a big hotel kitchen in Bournemouth that my dad was working in and I was cracking eggs into a bowl, I think he gave me a tray of eggs and told me to crack them into the bowl to keep me quiet. It was a big kitchen and there were about 20 chefs in there and I ended up working there myself when I was about 18. I have been brought up in this industry, two of my brothers were chefs, one still is. When my dad first moved to the island he opened up Swainston Manor as the head chef there and then he went on to open up Valentinos restaurant in Carisbrooke, then we had Biscra House in Ryde and A La Carte in Brading. That is when I moved to the Isle of Wight when I was about 18 and moved to Brading to work with him in A La Carte. We used to have a little cafe in Bournemouth call Papillon, my dad used to work at the restaurant during the day and then at night he used to come home and make all these pizzas and my mum used to serve them in the cafe during the day. We were all there helping to bring in the supplies. I got locked in the cellar once because they didn’t realise that I had come in and taken a crate of Coke and gone down there with it so they shut the cellar door; They let me out about 20 minutes later when they heard me banging. My dad was keen to have another Chef although I don’t think my mother was overly keen.
What would your idea of food hell be?
That’s difficult. What’s always disappointing is when you go out somewhere and you get you meal and think ‘ I could have done better at home’. Although it is nice when you are off not to be cooking and washing up but when you have gone somewhere and it isn’t as good as you would like its very disappointing. I went somewhere once and the sea bass was raw in the middle where it had been frozen when they started cooking it, I sent it back and the waitress came back and told me that the chef had said that he couldn’t cook it anymore without rover-cooking it, I didn;t want it over-cooked I just wanted it cooked in the first place. That my idea of food hell; people just taking something that should have been alright and just ruining it.
What is your favourite healthy food?
I love salad, salads with a hot ingredient tossed into them at the last minute but I don’t know if they are that healthy as they do have a lot of dressing on them so not quite sure about that as a healthy option. I like a nice Chicken Caesar Salad with piping hot chicken in it, but again, the dressing is not particularly healthy.
So finally is there anything else that you would like to say about Burrs?
We have been here for 15 years and I think that is an achievement in itself. I am very lucky that I have managed to have kept going for that long, I don’t know if I will be here in another 15 years but hopefully as I have no plans to go anywhere at the moment. A lot of places come and go and I think that we are lucky here as I have had the same staff pretty much since I started and that continuity, they recognise the customers when they come in and they know whether they can have a laugh and a joke with them or if they are having a romantic meal so to leave them alone. I am very lucky with the staff I have got because it just makes it so much easier not having to train people to do things the way you want it done; especially when they have been there three or four weeks and are just getting the hang of things and then they decide that it is not for them and they leave so I am very lucky to have kept hold of the staff I have here for so long.
We love your staff here, we have eaten here many many times before as you know, and we are always greeted with a warm friendly welcome and on one occasion they even mentioned it must be around our wedding anniversary when we had come in, and they were right. It is those finishing touches that really makes all the difference.
Thank you for meeting with us today and you have a recipe for us don’t you.
Yes I have a lovely recipe for four people for you;
Sardines with Citrus Salsa – Click here to see this recipe