After starting in the kitchen from the age of 15, Sameer Bhatkar has pursued his passion of cooking from hotel kitchens to London high streets. With 25 years’ experience in the culinary world, our Swallow Street Head Chef gives us a little insight into his past, ethos and seafood expertise.
Tell us a bit about your story leading to FishWorks?
I grew up in India surrounded by incredible food, flavours and spices. I started off in a hotel in Mumbai at the age of 15, quickly learning the diversity of cuisines. I had great teachers and a great team around me to build my knowledge and endurance in the kitchen. I moved to London in 2005 and started working for Loch Fyne restaurants, this is when I discovered my love of seafood. I was able to move around the different restaurants to understand how each restaurant had its own characteristics and needs. I was with the company for 5 years after deciding to move on to FishWorks in 2010. For me, FishWorks was the next level up- fresh and quality seafood with great ingredients. They knew the true meaning of simplicity!
Who inspires you and who do you aspire to?
I see positives is all personalities- there is something good in everyone. I admire my team around me as everyone has something to offer. As a leader it’s very important to encourage the team around you to be the best and if you are a good leader, you bring out the best in them. If I had to choose someone I have admired throughout my career, it would be Douglas Wright, a former colleague of mine. He had real passion and understood the importance of small details. He always made the effort to make sure everyone around him understood his vision, I aspire to be like him with my own team today.
If you had to pick a favourite FishWorks dish, what would it be?
It would have to be the Blackened Cornish Mackerel. For me, it’s the combination of flavours on the plate. The spicy, strong flavour of the Mackerel with the smoked, yet sweet cauliflower purée and the tenderness of the broccoli makes the dish come alive. It’s such a seasonal dish and very popular with our guests.
Easter is coming up- what fish would you cook?
This is a difficult one to answer as everyone’s tastes are different. I personally would go to your local fishmongers or click and collect with our fishmonger online closer to the time. Find out what the daily catch is and go with that! There is nothing better than a fresh daily catch in-season. I care about nature and believe there is no point in spoiling it…. Cook it simple and you can’t go wrong.
What are your tips for cooking fish?
The key is the ingredients and that depends on the fish. My favourite way of cooking fish is pan-frying it. If you seal the fish on a high flame, you lock in all the moisture and don’t lose the flavour. If you have a fish with skin on it, you can also crisp that up! The trick is to fry it skin down for as long as possible before flipping to the other side to finish it off.
What has been your favourite FishWorks moment?
Any kind of training really… I love teaching people! Passing on my knowledge is the most fulfilling part of my job, especially when we have a new starter on the team. It’s not only important to pass on the cooking knowledge, but it’s also important to talk about what FishWorks represents- freshness, sustainability and seasonality.
What are you excited about that’s coming up for FishWorks
I always look forward to new menu changes. It really allows us to be creative and flexible with what our fishermen bring in. We have a great relationship with our suppliers and so find ourselves constantly developing dishes. I’m excited for our new restaurant opening in Covent Garden in a couple of months. I’m especially excited about working with a new team and setting up a new system. The new restaurant is in the heart of the city and so it’s important that we get our operations in order to give the best service to our guests.
What do you like to cook at home?
Well for the kids, I make their favourite: Crab Curry- they go mad for it! Personally, I love seabass… pan-fried with vegetables on the side, so simple and so delicious.