Chris Wheeler is one of the most genuine and loyal chefs in the hospitality industry. During the 12 years he spent with Jean-Christophe Novelli, for example, he remortgaged his house to help save Novelli’s business. This is a man who will do almost anything to help a friend in need.
Since stepping away in 2002 from Novelli Restaurants, where he was operations manager and group head chef, Wheeler has gone on to plough his own furrow as executive chef at Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.
His dedication to building up the culinary credentials at Stoke Park over the past 16 years and fostering a positive atmosphere across the property’s wide-ranging food and beverage outlets has won him many awards, including Chef of the Year (over 250 covers) at the Hotel Cateys 2016.
The Ginger Chef ‘Served Up’ is Wheeler’s first book and shares many of his favourite recipes, from the easy to replicate to those that will challenge both the adventurous home cook and the professional chef.
All the dishes reflect Wheeler’s classical background, such as roast fillet of sea bass with a ragoût of British clams and mussels, or roast supreme of guinea fowl filled with apricots and served with confit leg, gratin potatoes, curly kale and red wine jus. There is even a sophisticated version of the traditional Sunday roast: mini roast cannon of beef with mini Yorkshire puddings, parsnip purée and a ragout of baby vegetables. The desserts too are familiar, although often with a Wheeler twist, be it Earl Grey and vanilla crème brûlée with peach ice tea sorbet or Pimm’s summer pudding with clotted cream.
Usefully, the index clearly labels dishes that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as well as those who are gluten- or dairy-intolerant.
One minor quibble: the book would have benefitted from some judicious editing, as the lists of ingredients and methods don’t always match up with the recipe descriptions.
The Ginger Chef ‘Served Up’ by Chris Wheeler (the Alexander Group, £20)