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Out Of The Frying Pan: Gareth Jones

Alaka Prodhan finds it fishy with new Neighbourhood restaurant chef

Written by . Published on November 19th 2012.

Out Of The Frying Pan: Gareth Jones

GARETH JONES is the Head Chef at the new so-called NYC eatery and bar Neighbourhood, which opens at the end of November. Having risen through the ranks of fine dining in Chester and Llandudno, this is his first posting in Manchester. He is looking forward to bringing excitement and innovation to Avenue North at Spinningfields.

What will be your favourite dish on the menu at Neighbourhood?

I think the one dish that I’ve actually surprised myself with and that I really like, is the crab-fried oysters. It’s fried in the shell, so the oysters are gently cooked at the bottom, the flavoursome crab mix (made with crab, eggs, red pepper, chilli and diced red onions) sits on top almost like a mousse, and it has a really crunchy Japanese breadcrumb topping.

My other favourite is the lobster tacos – pieces of lobster claw in a fine beer batter, in a soft tortilla wrap, with a little bit of lettuce on the bottom, together with our own made red cabbage slaw, marinated in a sort of vinaigrette, with sweet pepper ketchup.

I think these two dishes sum up the style of Neighbourhood.

What’s your favourite pudding?

I was going to say apple pie, but everyone says that. Otherwise it would have to be a traditional lemon tart with clotted cream.

Mr Jones loves a juicy peachMr Jones loves a juicy peachWhat’s your favourite fruit?

I don’t eat a lot of fruit really, but I really like peaches – a soft juicy peach that runs down your chin. To cook with, I love rhubarb – you can do so much with it. That sweet and sour flavour is really good.

What’s your favourite vegetable?

It’s got to be the Great British Pea. For me, when that first pea comes fresh out the pod, it signals the best time of year for produce. You’ll never find peas on my menus in December – they have to be fresh.

What’s your favourite cut of meat?

My personal favourite is pigs’ cheeks.

I absolutely love them. There’s just something so different about them – the texture’s so gelatinous and sticky. I like to braise them for as long as I can, with a dark, rich sauce and a little bit of orange and cinnamon. It’s a very hearty, wintery dish. A lot of people are deterred when they hear things like “cheek” or “tongue” but I always say, just try it, and they usually love it.

My favourite steak is rib-eye – you get that lovely marbling of fat. Fat is flavour. I’d rather have that than fillet any day.

What’s your favourite fish?

I really like sea bass, but I’ve come across another fish which is very similar called stone bass – really meaty, white flesh, nice crispy skin. It’s a little less known and a little less expensive.

Do you prefer Chinese or Indian?

Indian. I eat a lot of both but my girlfriend doesn’t like Indian, so I never get to have it – as soon as she’s away or out for the night I treat myself with a takeout. Chicken tikka bhuna’s my favourite.

Your guilty pleasure?

Probably takeaway. My guilty pleasure is eating the wrong food… like fried chicken and chips. People might say, “But you’re a chef, what are you doing eating that?” but it’s comfort food. When you finish work at 11pm and head home after a long day, the last thing you want to do is start cooking something.

What’s the biggest mistake chefs can make when starting to learn the trade?

I agree with a lot of what the other lads have said. Some kids do come into the industry thinking that, within a year, they’re going to be Head Chef material, but you don’t get anywhere in this business without putting in a lot of time and a lot of hard work. It’s a long, long process and yeah, you don’t get paid that well and the hours are long, but I’ve personally loved every minute of it.

Coming soonComing soon

What's your favourite meal ever?

I’ve got two. Can I have two?

Yeah, go on then.

The first meal – the food was excellent, but it was more the atmosphere. I won a competition in 2010 and we were guests of a wine company in Alba in Italy. They took us to a restaurant called Piazza Duomo, right in the central square. It had 2 Michelin stars and the food was very futuristic, sort of molecular gastronomy style – for example there was one dish which looked like a bit of marshmallowy green moss, but it was actually tuna. The whole experience was just amazing.

The second meal was at The Capital Hotel in London, right next to Harrods – the chef at the time was Eric Chavot. I ordered a lobster ravioli vierge and this bowl came out with a plate with holes in it balanced on the top. On it was a roll of pasta with a little piece of lobster claw, bits of tomato, basil and olive oil, but it wasn’t really what I’d ordered so I was a bit confused. But I ate it, and it was beautiful.

As soon as I finished, the waiter, who had been discreetly watching me eat it, came over and said “Surprise from the chef” – with a fork and a spoon, he lifted off the plate, which was actually a steamer lid, and underneath was a perfectly formed lobster ravioli. It was stunning.

The Capital HotelThe Capital Hotel

What’s your idea of a perfect service session?

Again, it’s pretty much what the other lads have said: everything’s gone well, all the customers are happy and you’ve got the job done to the best of your abilities. Because, on a Saturday for example, you might be in for fifteen hours, but all that is working towards the service, so if it doesn’t go well at the end, it can be really soul destroying.

What inspired you to become a chef?

It’s a bit of a rubbish story really. I left school at sixteen and I wasn’t sure what to do – I mean, there were things that I wanted to be but knew I was never going to be, like a fighter pilot. I think I’d watched too much Top Gun.

I wanted to do something hands on. I didn’t want to be sat at a desk in an office from 9 ‘til 5, because I knew that would drive me potty. I wanted something that would feed my brain and keep me on my toes, keep me thinking and learning, where I could create new things. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that’s what cooking and that high-pressure kitchen environment gave me. You can be as artistic or as creative as you want.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Getting to work with young lads and train and teach them. It’s nice to be able to give something back and see them succeed.

And the least?

It’s a tough one, really. I know it’s already been said, but with a Head Chef role, the thing I least enjoy is that you can’t always be in the kitchen. There’s paperwork to do, menu costings, the business side… not that I don’t enjoy that, but I dislike anything that pulls me out of the kitchen.

What is the craziest moment of your career?

It’s got to be representing Wales in the Great British Menu in 2011. It was the first time I ever did anything like that, working in a TV studio and being in front of the cameras – it was a different kind of pressure. But it was a fantastic opportunity.

Alba for a lovely mealAlba for a lovely meal

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Wall-ENovember 19th 2012.

Neighbourhood sounds really good. Another quality chef for the city.

1 Response: Reply To This...
IanNovember 19th 2012.

opens friday 30th I think

bigearsNovember 22nd 2012.

can anyone find any menus anywhere??

EditorialNovember 22nd 2012.

Here you go Bigears: www.facebook.com/NeighbourhoodRestaurant…

bigearsNovember 27th 2012.

thank you! menu looks ace! cant wait for this to open and good luck to Gaz, top bloke and top chef!

AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

i agree top bloke very under rated as a chef and should take manchester by storm, good luck to him and wish him well for the coming months. we ate alot at chester fields where he was head chef and always had a great meal

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