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Out Of The Frying Pan: Paul Riley, Kaleido

A new column finding out what makes city chefs tick

Published on October 24th 2012.

Out Of The Frying Pan: Paul Riley, Kaleido

PAUL RILEY is the executive chef of Kaleido, the fine dining restaurant on top of the National Football Museum. From Rochdale originally, Riley has worked at some of the UK’s top restaurants, including ‘Nutters’ in Lancashire, the four-star ‘Pedersen Crown Plaza’ in Reading and Bristol’s ‘Thistle’ Hotel, which achieved its first AA Rosette under his guidance as head chef. 

It seems appropriate that we kick-off this new series of chef revelations with Kaleido on the National Football Museum. 

What’s your favourite dish on the Kaleido menu at the moment?

My favourite dish and also a clear customer favourite is ‘Caramelised duck breast, spiced aubergine puree, sweet potato confit and piquant jus’. This dish originally featured about 7 years ago when I was working in Bristol with my old sous chef Phil (He was affectionately known as grandad within the brigade). It's developed now into a lovely combination. With sweet honey flavours married with a blend of eight different spices such as star anise, cumin and coriander seed. These are teamed with a slightly tart aubergine puree and the sticky sweet roasted garlic and sweet potato. This dish delivers powerful combinations that cut through the rich fattiness of the duck breast. It converted many people who have hated the humble ‘aubergine’.

What’s your favourite pudding?

I don't really have a sweet tooth so I'll often be found tasting everybody else’s dessert on the table whilst tucking into a plate a local cheeses and good port. If I had to choose a pudding I think I would go for a warm apple and almond cake with toasted almond ice cream. This is on our menu too. The flourless almond sponge folded with Bramley apple puree is light, yet moist, so you get that traditional pudding feeling without the burden of it resting in your gut for the next two hours.

What’s your favourite fruit

Anything English, particularly sweet English strawberries but mostly rhubarb - ok not really a fruit - starting in January with the tender forced variety grown in the dark followed in April with the outdoor grown more flavourful crop. I’d simply poach in sugar syrup with a little vanilla and enjoy either warm or chilled. 

What’s your favourite vegetable

Jerusalem artichoke will win hands down. I wait each year for October to arrive and they will always feature on the menu right through till the end of February in one guise or another. My favourite method of using them is a veloute made with a smooth puree of artichoke, a little chicken stock and finished with loads of butter. This with a piece of confit pork belly and some fresh crab I could eat everyday.

What’s your favourite cut of meat?

I have two. The first has got to be rib eye steak (cooked medium rare). If I had the choice – free range Limousin from the West Country aged on the bone for 28 days. My second would have to be pork belly, confit slowly for 16 hours. We are currently using Dingley Dell at the restaurant and the flavour is superb. 

Do you prefer Chinese or Indian?

It's got to be Chinese, The pleasure lies in dining as a group and having a constant flow of dishes brought to the table for all to tuck into. This experience for me will always start with a bowl of hot and sour soup mixed with slices of Chinese  roast pork.

Your guilty pleasure?

Biltong (cured meat originally from South Africa). I don’t so much feel guilty about eating it, more the fact that once I start I simply cannot stop. I order my Biltong by phone from my favourite butcher in Bristol which is promptly delivered under vacuum. The day it arrives it's always on my mind knowing that when I get home I can burst the seal on the pack and eat as much as I can. I like it ‘wet’ which comes still pink in the middle and soft, not hard and chewy like some of the branded products available.

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

It's the infamous chef's ego. For example, when a young chef believes he knows all there is to know after three years in the industry and then heads off to boss the kitchens of a small independent restaurant. This usually results in failure, but it's too late, the ego won’t let him or her take a step down and continue to train in the traditional fashion. They become stuck in kitchens that they can only maintain for six months at a time before they move onto the next. They should stick with the original plan and gain invaluable experience from acclaimed or experienced chefs.

What's your favourite meal ever?

I'm going back about five years for this one, I was on holiday with my soon to be wife and her family. We had just arrived in Gozo, settled into our villa, and wandered out for dinner. There was one restaurant within walking distance of the villa so giving it a go was always going to happen. We were the only table in the restaurant and sat on a stone terrace overlooking the most amazing valley filled with tomato fields and grape vines. We could just see the coast as the valley opened up.

The food was seriously simple and the menu was small, we pretty much ordered one of everything from a predominantly seafood menu. The whole table took a deep breath when the food arrived, the most amazing display of freshly cooked local seafood served unexpectedly in some of the most contemporary crockery I’d come across. The meal was certainly not ground breaking but the honestly cooked freshest produce served in what I believe to be the best settings possible makes this one of my most memorable meals. Shame I can't remember the name now. But it was all about the moment.

What’s your idea of a perfect service session?

Perfect service will always follow a hard session of mise en place, in otherwords we've got everything readyThe few hours before service when your never quite sure whether your going to be ready in time. The brigade are all pushing in the same direction with one goal – to have everything set with the ability to steel five minutes of down time before the first order comes through to the kitchen. This is the time to get the team fired up and ready for action.

Five hours later, with everyone served, there will inevitably have been a few moments of panic and pressure but this only adds to the atmosphere and focusses the crew. The perfect service is when you get to this stage, you can revel in the great feedback from the diners and get the team a beer, whilst discussing finer details to note for next time. To have all my chefs still buoyant and positive at this stage shows a good service was had by all.

And the craziest moment of your career?

It’s when I was in the first few years of my career, working with Andrew Nutter at his ‘original’ restaurant up on the moors. It was the restaurants 4th birthday. We served a full restaurant of diners with six courses finishing with chocolate covered ice cream petit fours served over a cloud of dry ice. This may not seem too crazy but once food service was over all the chefs proceeded outside to take on the role of pyrotechnicians.

Nutter had rounded up some of the biggest fireworks I had ever seen. We then proceeded to wow all the diners with an awesome firework display set to the Flash Gordon theme with the young woman from the pub up the road dressed in white lycra dancing on a pedestal in the middle of the moors. There were chefs stationed either side of her launching an aerial barrage simulating a battle field. The effect was awesome and, fortunately, all involved survived to tell the tale.

Kaleido is at National Football Museum, Cathedral Gardens, City, M4 3BG. 0161 871 8160

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Dave ThackerayOctober 25th 2012.

I like this column. Well done.

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