Roux Scholarship finalist Sabrina Gidda, 28, is head chef at Italian restaurant Bernardi's, the newest site from the Bernardi brothers, set to open in late September in London's Marylebone. She talks to Hannah Thompson about the plans for opening and her career to date
How did you get involved in Bernardi's?
I had a lovely telephone call out of the blue from the Bernardi brothers, and I went to meet them at the site, which was phenomenal. I think sometimes you get a good feeling for things.
Have you been involved in the menu right from the start?
What can we expect on the menu?
One of our signature dishes will be a tarragon gnocchi with a rabbit ragu, some broad beans and lardo. There are lots of freshly-made pastas and breads and little pizzettes too.
You were previously at Restaurant Associates. Has this been quite a big change?
I had a really wonderful three and a half years there, and they supported me through not one but two Roux Scholarship finals, which is incredible. But my heart lies in restaurants, really.
What elements of your background are you bringing to the role?
Before Restaurant Associates I worked purely in commercial business, cooking for high volumes, which I missed. What chef doesn't love being in a busy kitchen, cooking food that they love, with a team they enjoy working with?
What else is on the menu?
We have a small plates section, and the idea is that at any time of day, you can come in and don't have to commit to a larger dish. We are doing larger cuts of meat as well, such as the Sunday porchetta with fennel and lemon.
At age 28, you are still young compared to some head chefs
I think if you are ambitious, you always want to go further. My degree was in PR and marketing, but then I decided to pack it all in and get into the kitchen. I haven't discarded what I learned from PR though, because these days as a chef, it helps if you're comfortable talking to the media.
I do feel very lucky to do what I love, and we're now all committed to this being a beautiful neighbourhood restaurant and not a flash in the pan.
Your cooking heritage isn't Italian, is it?
It's really not. A woman came up to me and said, so where in Sardinia are you from? And I said, I'm not! But I'm of Indian heritage, so there's a certain connection with food there. I'm a bit of a culinary nomad; I love cooking from all sorts of influences.
Will you try for the Roux Scholarship a third time?
Bernardi's is my absolute focus at the moment, so I won't be trying again now, but I am still very supportive of everyone involved. I hope to see a few more women in it. So to all the ladies out there - please apply! It will always hold a very special place in my heart.