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Meet the chef: Chris Harrod, chef patron of The Whitebrook nr Monmouth in Wales

We caught up with Chris to find out who has influenced him in his career and to hear of his passions for growing his own ingredients.

By LLM Reporters  |  April 29, 2022
Chris Harrod The Whitebrook

The Whitebrook is a Michelin star restaurant with eight rooms, set in the blissfully peaceful Wye Valley. In 2013, Worcestershire born chef Chris Harrod and his wife Kirsty followed their ultimate dream of owning their own restaurant, and within 11 months The Whitebrook was awarded a Michelin star. Often described as serving the Wye Valley on a plate, every dish from breakfast through to dinner reflects the abundance of locally sourced ingredients available to Chris, many of which are foraged within a short distance from the restaurant.

The Whitebrook is listed in the 2020 The Good Food Guide Top 50 UK Restaurants, has 4 AA Rosettes and was included in the Sunday Times Top 10 Foodie Hotels. In 2018 Chris represented Wales in the hit BBC series Great British Menu and went on to win and serve the NHS guests his special ‘Tea and Cake’ dessert at the winners’ banquet in London. Chris’s Suckling Pig dish, ‘Everything but the Squeal’ was also the highest scoring dish of the series and a best seller at his restaurant.

The Whitebrook is listed in the 2020 The Good Food Guide Top 50 UK Restaurants, has 4 AA Rosettes and was included in the Sunday Times Top 10 Foodie Hotels

Prior to The Whitebrook, Chris opened Colette’s as head chef at The Grove Hertfordshire, he spent almost four years working for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and began his steady rise in the kitchen as sous chef to Alan Murchison at L’Ortolan in Shinfield, Berkshire, for 18 months.

It was Raymond Blanc and his time at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons that influenced Chris profoundly: ‘What I thought about food changed completely when I got there. Everything is about quality and the freshness of the produce. As a chef it’s all about questioning and tasting, and that’s really stayed with me’.

We caught up with Chris to find out his favourite ingredients and season, which chefs he admires and where you’ll find him when he’s not in the kitchen.

“I have always had a love for French Gastronomy and Michel Bras who I still think his food is so modern, so ahead of his time”

What or who inspired you to become a chef?

I had wanted to be a chef from the age of seven, I remember watching cooking shows on TV like Keith Floyd, then one day Raymond Blanc came bouncing off the TV screen with so much enthusiasm and passion. And that was it, I wanted to become a chef and I wanted to work for him. After many letters written asking to work for him, I finally got a job at Le Manoir.

Who has been your biggest influence to get you to where you are today?

As I mentioned earlier Raymond Blanc was a big influence on me and became my mentor/teacher. I have always had a love for French Gastronomy and Michel Bras who I still think his food is so modern, so ahead of his time. Now I think what Simon Rogan has created with L’enclume and his farm and sustainability practices is inspirational and leading the way of what the future of restaurants needs to be.

“Foraged ingredients and produce from the kitchen garden take centre stage. We then source the very best producers and growers from the Wye Valley and its borders”

What’s your signature dish?

We don’t have a signature dish; we have a few favourite dishes that we bring back when they are in season. I like to keep the menu evolving and bringing in new dishes each season. Having won Great British Menu in 2018 and the success of the Suckling Pig dish, that really has become a bit of a signature.

What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?

We look at our surroundings and build the menu from there. Foraged ingredients and produce from the kitchen garden take centre stage. We then source the very best producers and growers from the Wye Valley and its borders.

Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?

Spring, after a long cold winter, you start see the first green shoots of the year. Then after the hunger gap in the vegetable garden you get the first asparagus.

“If I’m not in the kitchen I am usually out foraging or up in my kitchen garden”

What is your favourite ingredient to create with?

I love either been out foraging picking ingredients and mushrooms or digging up vegetables from my kitchen garden then bringing them into the kitchen and cooking them that night for our guests or creating a new dish. It is such a buzz every time, very special.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

A musician, but I was never good enough. It would have been something crafty, like a potter or furniture maker.

When are you happiest?

Obviously, my family are the most important to me, and being a chef and running the restaurant does not give us much time together, so it is precious and that’s when I’m happiest.

When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?

If I’m not in the kitchen I am usually out foraging or up in my kitchen garden.

thewhitebrook.co.uk
@TheWhitebrook

Imagery supplied by The Whitebrook