Questions & Answers with Executive Chef Justin Kett

22 January 2019

As we move through the new year what special dishes and theme events can we expect on the Swan’s menus?
After the excitement and joy of the festive period, it is now time to take stock, relax for a few moments, take a deep breath then get ready to start all over again! Yes the relentless cycle of the hotel industry which I do love so much! We are already planning masterclasses (starting off with our very helpful guide to ‘’stress free dinner parties’) and wine dinners alongside some other exciting projects.

What’s the most complicated/involved dish you have ever prepared, and who was it for?
I wouldn’t say it grips me with fear but poaching whole salmon for the Christmas day buffet is a dish,you have
to give the utmost respect to, as too much poaching will ruin the taste and not enough would be a terrible waste of a beautiful fish. Add to this the added pressure of removing the fish from the courtboullion
(poaching stock). This can all end in disaster if the fish breaks at this crucial point. But the all dishes can be complicated. Take beans on toast for example. How, I hear you cry! Well, it can be very easy to
burn the toast or over cook the beans (however, I am aware a select few are partial to a mushy bean!) But if you take care to get that lovely golden toast just right and add special touches, such as a knob of butter to the beans and finishing the whole piece with a sprinkle of parmesan you end up with a dish on a whole new level.

Six things/gadgets/utensils every good chef should have….
A sharp knife and a good steel sharpener to keep it so, is essential. After that I would recommend a micro
plane, guzonder pallet knife and a good quality frying pan. Not so available at home is the help of a kitchen porter, you always need them and they are worth their weight in gold.


When you eat out what are you looking for in food? Do you sometimes order a particular dish to see how another chef has created it?
When I eat out, I am looking for a menu that presents me with dishes I almost struggle to choose from, because they all excite me. I also look for a menu that makes me and my wife choose different things so we can sample as much as possible. But when it comes down to it, we all know I love a sandwich! So if I see a
club sandwich on the menu, I will always have to try that.


What are the tell-tale signs of a good restaurant menu and wine list? In other words do the restaurant owners really know their stuff when it comes to matching food and wine?
I think the one true sign is if they are busy when you walk in. If they are, you can tell they must be doing something right. The menu should always be something the chef enjoys cooking and feels comfortable with.
When it comes to wine, I would say drink what you like to drink! Don’t think, just because it is expensive, it
must be good. As this is not always the case!

Most hotel or restaurant kitchens have the occasional possible crisis to avoid (running out of ingredients, spoiling a tray of carefully prepared dishes, that kind of thing) – have you had one at the Swan you could tell us about, and how did you avoid disaster?
I would like to say, we never have such issues at The Swan, due to my great planning and team. But I have worked in a kitchen where a 48 hour stock, finished with port, was poured down the sink as the kitchen porters thought it was a burnt saucepan…….I will let your imaginations take charge of what happened next!


If you could update/refresh one forgotten British favourite traditional dish what would it be and how would you go about giving it a new lease of life?
The British roast, as this is something that really takes me back to my youth and the start of my cooking career. I remember my mums crackling from roast shoulder of pork, getting to know the difference between well done and rare beef and tasting horse radish for the first time. It was truly eye opening! I feel you can do
so much with this dish. Such as putting a lemon in the chicken cavity, mustard on your joint of beef, vanilla in your apple sauce or garlic in your yorkie mix. Really the ideas are endless.


You are preparing a three course meal for three very special celebrity guests of your choosing. First of all what would you cook (and why) and who, from the world of entertainment, sport, the arts, would you invite and why?
This question is easy. The first person would be my wife. As I’m sure you can imagine, this lady is my rock. She always tells me the truth (which we all need to hear from time to time) and she is doing the most wonderful (and hardest) job of raising our daughter. The second would be my old sous chef Ben, who is is now
the head chef of The Crown, Woodbridge. He could help with the cooking and washing up! Plus when you put us in a room together we inspire each other. Finally, it would have to be Arsene Wenger. He took Arsenal on the most incredible (and at times ‘invincible’!) journey and was then hounded out by the people who used to worship him. It would be amazing to hear his side of the story. To start it would be smoked fish, a personal favourite of my wife. The main would be anything that doesn’t include mushrooms as that would be Ben’s worst nightmare and for desert it would be the French classic of Ile Flottante (floating meringue) for the other French classic, Mr Wenger.

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