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The Caterer

Spring vegetables

22 October 2003 by
Spring vegetables

When Alain Passard announced last year that his three-Michelin-starred Arpège restaurant was going to be 90% vegetarian, a collective shudder went through the gastronomic establishment. Rightly or wrongly, he drew attention to the fact that chefs are protein-happy. Too many use vegetables as add-ons rather than as the focus of a dish.

That's not a charge anyone could level at Sat Bains. His constantly changing nine-course menus at Hotel des Clos in Nottingham rewrite the rules of where and how to serve vegetables. They can crop up at every stage of the meal: here as an appetiser, there as a dessert.

He readily admits that EscoffierÁ¢Â€Â™s Guide Culinaire is his favourite reading, because itÁ¢Â€Â™s an endless source of ideas. The difference between his and the classical approach is that he sees vegetables as more than just a garnish or an accompaniment. If the excitement comes from these, he would say, thereÁ¢Â€Â™s no need for the tournedos or the filet de sole.

By sticking to proven combinations, his vegetable dishes surprise without threatening diners. They donÁ¢Â€Â™t have to handle unfamiliar tastes.

Although heÁ¢Â€Â™s designing for a dÁƒÂ©gustation meal, his concepts would translate to bistros, brasseries and gastropubs. A tomato tartare, for instance, stands up in its own right without the tomato water shot and the Parmesan sorbet. A unique take on poached egg with asparagus and foie gras would also work with smoked salmon or sautÁƒÂ©d chestnut mushrooms or porcini. Bains works particularly closely with supplier Fresherway, based in Stonnal, Staffordshire, which he describes as being Á¢Â€Âœin tuneÁ¢Â€Â with his mentality.

It may seem a contradiction, but the reason why his vegetable dishes are so attractive is because they arenÁ¢Â€Â™t linked to vegetarianism. They donÁ¢Â€Â™t exclude any ingredients on principle. Nor do they have to be savoury rather than sweet. They simply have to look and taste good.

All about sat
Less than five years after winning the Roux Scholarship, 32-year-old Sat Bains has earned his first Michelin star. ItÁ¢Â€Â™s hard to imagine that at the time of winning the competition, Bains was out of work. But as a result of his success he was approached by the owners of Hotel des Clos and, despite knowing that the chef would head off to France on a three-month stage at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier as part of his prize, they offered him a job at the nine-bedroom restaurant with rooms on the outskirts of Nottingham.

Á¢Â€ÂœI hate conformity,Á¢Â€Â he says, implying that heÁ¢Â€Â™s a rebel. If so, heÁ¢Â€Â™s not a kitchen wild man. Nor is his cooking: different, perhaps, but not off-the-wall.

HeÁ¢Â€Â™s constantly filling spiral-bound exercise books with new ideas, experimenting with combinations of texture, temperature and flavour, and encouraging his small brigade of three chefs to do likewise. Many of his ideas derive from traditional themes. All have a twist, but they manage to bridge the gap between classical and modern cuisines.

Despite lucrative offers of television work, heÁ¢Â€Â™s remained loyal to his kitchen Á¢Â€Â" where he works with his colleagues Ben Greeno and John Freeman Á¢Â€Â" only leaving it during the week to pump weights in the gym for two hours every day. HeÁ¢Â€Â™s ambitious, he admits, but not for empty celebrity: Á¢Â€ÂœWhen people mention my name I want them to equate it with brilliant food.Á¢Â€Â

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!](#)Á‚ [Asparagus with Poached egg and foie gras Á¢Â€Â" (Serves one)](../chef/recipedetail.asp?recipeID=1118)
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![](#)Á‚
[Wild asparagus with QuailÁ¢Â€Â™s egg and chorizo Á¢Â€Â" (Serves one)](../chef/recipedetail.asp?recipeID=1120)
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[Asparagus Á¢Â€ÂœsoldierÁ¢Â€Â with Boiled egg Á¢Â€Â" (Serves one)](../chef/recipedetail.asp?recipeID=1121)
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![](#)Á‚
[Tomato tartare Á¢Â€Â" (Serves one)](../chef/recipedetail.asp?recipeID=1124)
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[Beetroot Carpaccio](../chef/recipedetail.asp?recipeID=1125)
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[Frozen Fennel Savings](../chef/recipedetail.asp?recipeID=1123)
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[LemonÁ‚ Grass Panna Cotta Á‚ Á‚ Á‚ Photo Á‚© Sam Bailey
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