Christian Ponte

Taken from an interview with Chefs Forum

Since I moved out of home I have always had to deal with food, like everyone, however mine was not only because I was alone but also because I found it exciting and I wanted to do it out of desire.

From a young age I learnt how to bake bread with my Grandma and how to butcher cows and pigs with my Uncle on his farm. All of this has made me realise how passionate I am about natural and simple ingredients to create tasty meals.

Realising how joyful and full of life it made me feel to cook, I chose to follow the culinary life which I learnt more about through Hospitality Secondary School in Italy (which is where I lived at the time), where food is as important as following your religion. I qualified in Cividale del Friuli in Istituto Alberghiero after 5 years of a specialised course followed by various restaurant experience in the sector.

Apart from my hospitality passion I also love playing football in my own time as I used to play with a semi-professional team in Italy in second and third division, so that gave me the opportunity to travel the world, follow a healthy diet and to eat food from all around the globe. This has made me realise how ingredients from different places taste depending on the season, the freshness in flavour and source.

In 2010 I moved to England, the first two years I went to college in North London studying a NVQ LEVEL 3 in Catering and Hospitality City & Guilds. I had to learn English as I had never spoken it before using my comprehension of food to communicate and through the college I had the opportunity to work at The Olympia Exhibition centre on Masterchef along with Gregg Wallace and John Torode. I also received a few awards, but the best one was for being the most improved student of 2012 in Barnet Southgate College.

During that period I also worked for Harrods in external events such as the Formula One Silverstone, Chestertons Polo in the Park ‘The Grazing Paddock’, Grand Design ExCel sponsored by Anglian Home Improvements and so on.

Harrods then took me on for a job in Frescobaldi Restaurant; the ONLY Italian restaurant in the store. I started as a Commis Chef and then moved up levels to Chef de Partie all in one year, given the responsibility to take charge of the whole restaurant. During the time I spent in Harrods I got promoted to Junior Sous Chef and I have worked with different Michelin star chefs such as Michel Roux Jnr, Carlo Cracco, Bobo and Enrico Cerea, Davide Scabin, and the well-known Massimo Bottura. After this I managed to fit in some events which took place in India and Qatar that I enjoyed very much.

My life ambition is to always improve my knowledge and to do this I had to gain experience so I decided to work in different locations. I worked at Fortnum & Mason in “The Bar Champagne” inside the British Airways terminal as a Senior Sous Chef, successively I received an offer from The British Museum to take under my wing the Great Court Restaurant as a Head Chef which made me the second person in charge of the company Benugo at The British Museum.

Here I learnt how to manage 20 chefs and different departments of the company. I then had to move to Kent for family reasons so I decided that it was time for me to take it easy and put family first so I thought that a gastro pub would be a lot easier to manage and run, with all the knowledge and experience that I gathered through the years.

 

Christian Ponte (left), pictured with Tibor Mozi cooking on our purpose built fire pit for the Elephants Head steak night.

Question and Answer Session from Chef Forum “Chef of the Week”

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?

My passion for cooking was engraved into me when I was born from my mother and my grandmother, and nearly everything I learnt was from them. I achieved a higher skill set from learning at school followed by experiences like working with Michelin star chefs.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I like having the freedom of creating dishes from imagination to reality, I also love the feedback I get from my clients as it makes me feel like I have worked hard for a reason.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic, Onions and Love.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Spoon as I use it to taste all my dishes.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
English European Classical.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Presumption and not knowing your own limits.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Summer because there is a lot of fresh food like fruits and veg as I love the Mediterranean diet, the days are long, you can eat outside and you get opportunities for BBQs.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Champagne and Strawberry Risotto, strange combination but amazing taste.

How do you come up with new dishes?
By reading books, magazines and by following new trends brought to me by the chefs I have previously worked aside. I try to also keep the same tastes together but presenting them with different shapes.

Who was your greatest influence?
My Grandmother, she raised me since birth to when I was 15 years old and taught me the basics.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Marco Pierre White, Michael Caines and Massimo Bottura.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef – Massimo Bottura.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Graham Squire and Luciano Monosilio.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
An Italian Style sea food spot in Tooting’s Broadway Market called Fish Bite opened by Carmelo Carnevale President of the Italian Chefs in UK.