The Chilli Pickle Brighton co-founder Alun Sperring on his passion for Indian cuisine
PUBLISHED: 12:40 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:49 13 November 2018
Brighton’s The Chilli Pickle is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Co-founder Alun Sperring talks about his passions
My granddad travelled the world in the Merchant Navy and filled me with wanderlust as a young boy. Becoming a chef gave me the opportunity to do this too and I ended up working in eight countries and four continents.
Our ethos is about being passionate about great food and having a respect for Indian tradition, but not being bound. We buy the best ingredients possible and cook with care and solid technique to produce vibrant colourful and big flavoured food.
My wife and I travel to India every year, which is always a great inspiration. We choose a different destination with specific culinary regions in mind. I have worked with many Indian chefs and have always tried to pull on their knowledge, experience and family traditions. I also own a few hundred Indian cook books and probably double that non-Indian. I love being playful with classical and well-versed dishes using local and seasonal produce – crispy pork knuckle vindaloo and rare bread short rib beef madras being two examples.
We always try to work with the seasons and provenance and quality is key. I have worked hard over the years to get some great suppliers who are passionate about what they do. It does take time though to find and build on relationships. One supplier brings the very best spices for us direct from the plantations in India and we have amazing seafood suppliers in Brighton and Hastings. Our meat suppliers use great provenance with farmers that are passionate with careful and skilled husbandry. Plus, we use some seasonal foragers and quality fruit and veg supplies as well as passionate independent Indian sweet makers that produce great halwa for us.
We recently opened our second restaurant in Guildford. In the short term, our main focus is to replicate the Brighton restaurant with the same consistency in quality, passion and energy. We will be looking at other sites once we are fully bedded in and, ideally, are looking to develop a small cluster in the south east over the next four or five years.
I’ve had many culinary heroes over the years. The original inspiration was the old guard – the Roux brothers, Anton Mossiman, Pierre Koffman and Raymond Blanc. David Thompson of Nahm is proof that you don’t need to be indigenous to the cuisine to become an expert in your field.
My advice to young aspiring chefs is to work hard, try to be punctual (even with a hangover) and improve your skills on a daily basis. As a young chef taking pride in your ability to speedily chop an onion or fillet a fish will show your chef and co-workers you take pride in your job and will open up other opportunities.
The Chilli Pickle, 17 Jubilee Street, Brighton. Open Monday to Friday noon to 3pm and 6.30pm to 10.30pm, Saturday 12.30pm to 10.30pm and Sunday 12.30pm to 9.30pm.
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