I recently had the pleasure of meeting the charming Sam Moody, Head Chef of the prestigious Bath Priory Hotel restaurant and I was very excited, and very surprised, to receive an invitation to come and spend the day in his kitchen shortly afterwards!
I have never, ever worked in a professional kitchen. I like to cook, but I tend to suffer from a condition I like to call ‘food rage’ if things don’t quite go right. I was instantly worried. The Bath Priory is a famous restaurant, with multiple rosettes and awards, Executive Chef Michael Caines is a household name, and his Head Chef Sam is making waves in the industry having recently been awarded an Acorn Award!
However, I needn’t have worried – as I was being shown around the impressive looking kitchens of The Priory the rest of Sam’s brigade shouted reassuringly cheery hellos to me over the noise of the kitchen. I got dressed up in some chef whites and was given a series of tasks to complete – grating cauliflower for dinner service, chopping shallots to an impossibly small size, and preparing lemons, badly (Sorry about that!). It turns out that what I thought were ‘good’ knife skills, are in fact ‘poor’ knife skills when compared to this talented gang of chefs!
The heat in the kitchen was immense, the great big stoves were roasting hot, pots of water, stock and sauces were bubbling away, and the pastry section was churning out an impressive number of freshly baked loaves of bread. The kitchen was buzzing, full of activity, and this was all by 9am on a Saturday morning - I was beginning to feel out of my depth!
Sam would call me over every so often to show me some of the produce he was preparing, beautiful, fresh, line-caught fish – Turbot, Bass, as well as plenty of Lobsters. Then came the grouse, Chef seemed pretty excited about this – the previous day having been the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ - official start of the hunting season here in the UK.
I felt privileged to be shown around the grounds of The Priory Hotel, the kitchen gardens are well stocked, and ingredients can often be found on the menu in the restaurant, a particular highlight for me was the mulberry tree, a very rare tree with luscious tasting fruits that were used over the weekend to accompany the fresh grouse. I was also lucky to be given a sneak peek at the handsome dining rooms at the Priory, my very favourite featured the Chef’s table in The Wine Library, but all dining rooms are stunning, facing south over the beautiful gardens.
As lunch service turned into evening service the pressure and activity mounted, the pastry section prepared their many pots of ice creams and sorbets, and the front of house team readied the pass. Guests were served canapés of crispy lamb belly topped with olive tapenade, and smoked salmon mousse topped with wasabi , micro herbs and tiny balls of pickled cucumber – light and delicious! Orders were called out and dishes were served with impeccable timing and precision – Sam prides himself on making sure that every plate of food leaves the kitchen looking consistently perfect. Scallops from the Signature menu, goose liver terrine, squid with mango and apple, smoked salmon, and veal sweetbread ravioli all looked beautiful and smelt delicious. The kitchen was a hive of activity, but felt calm and focussed, communication was slick, and the air was full of busy chefs shouting ‘oui!’
My day in the Priory kitchens was amazing – I have always wondered what really happened behind those doors… the chefs work so hard, and they are so proud of what they produce, and rightly so! I will now fully appreciate every tiny detail on my plate when I eat in top restaurants – the effort and skill that goes into creating even what appears to be a simple accompaniment is incredible, and I really have been left stunned by the plates of food that this kitchen puts out. Go and eat at The Bath Priory – you really will not be disappointed!