Head Chef, Lee Bye, explains why he has little need for gadgetry
3rd February 2017
interviewed our Head Chef, Lee Bye. He explains everything from his passion for being a chef to why he has little need for gadgetry…
Who are you and where do you work?
My name is Lee Bye, I’m 30 years old, and I’m the Head Chef at Tuddenham Mill, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
How long have you been there?
I have been here three years as Head Chef, as of this month - boy has that gone quick!
Where were you before?
I was Tuddenham Mill's Sous Chef before with the previous Head Chef, Paul Foster, for three years and before that worked with Gordon McNeill - I have enjoyed and endured every part of my journey high and low - to become Head Chef.
Where did you train?
I studied at Cambridge Regional College, Catering and Hospitality, Levels 1 and 2. I didn’t take the option of Level 3. I was on an apprenticeship programme and wanted to get into a professional kitchen full time and start learning and tasting everything.
Who has inspired you?
I think, like most chefs, reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and White Heat were inspirations from a reading sense. Head Chef, Gordon McNeill, enabled me to grow a thick skin for this industry and Paul Foster really focused me and taught me to understand my palate. This has enabled me to grow into my journey at the correct pace. It is very important for any chef to understand their journeys.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Spring time is definitely my favourite season: morel mushrooms, tender young peas, broad beans, Tilbrook’s asparagus from Tuddenham Village, rhubarb and tangy sorrel. I think as we only have it for such a small amount of time I would have to say my favourite ingredient is Gary Tilbrook's asparagus. We order them the night before from him and they are hanging on our kitchen door first thing the next day. This is the romance you have being in the countryside, accessibility for vegetables is in abundance.
Got a favourite gadget?
To be honest we aren’t really into our gadgetry at Tuddenham, we keep things very straightforward. Good cooking and seasoning. Sourcing of ingredients is where we spend our time. Gadgets have great uses but for what we strive for at Tuddenham we don’t need them. Quality ingredients are the only gadgets we need.
What is your signature dish, at this time of year?
Forced rhubarb is beautiful this time of year and we use it in sweet and savoury. Tonight it will be on the menu with Breckland mallard and golden ale from Bury St Edmunds. Tomorrow lunch we may keep it simple on desserts with sea buckthorn churros, forced rhubarb and local honey we source in Tuddenham.
What do you like doing when you're not cooking?
When I’m not cooking, I’m normally thinking about cooking... I have a beautiful partner Holly who keeps me on my toes and two wonderful children, Evelyn and Leo. I try to make as much time for them when away from the stove. I am getting better at being home more which has been a huge challenge for me as I love what I do in my work. Boxing is a huge passion of mine and I try to get to as many events as possible throughout the year.
Where do you like to eat out in the region?
Easy: Pea Porridge in Bury St Edmunds. Justin Sharp is a throwback - a solid cook, who treats produce with respect and doesn’t manipulate the ingredients. He never disappoints. I love Thai Street Café in Newmarket. I tend to go with my brothers as it is a great place to unwind and relax over a few Thai beers and graze your way through the menu. The Gunton Arms in Norfolk is another great place to find yourself on a day off for lunch. I don’t want fuss, so a relaxed environment with some good cooking is all I look for when eating out. It’s a stressful industry so finding this on my days off in a restaurant is perfect.
What would you be doing if you were not a chef?
If I wasn’t a chef I would probably be doing a job where it is people focussed. I really enjoy and am intrigued by people’s performance in a workplace and how to maximise their potentials. It’s a challenge everyday but a hugely rewarding one. A dream job would have to be working for Sky Sports as a sports writer and analyst, ringside at Wembley Stadium or in the Gantry at Old Trafford - that’s a proper job.
What's your foodie prediction for 2017?
Restaurant Moor Hall in Aughton, Lancashire has to be the ‘one to watch’ in 2017 for me. I was lucky enough to eat Mark Birchall’s food when he was Head Chef at L’Enclume. He’s a real inspiration for any chef and has a true understanding of British ingredients, prepared to the highest order. I will be sure to go.