Catching up with Chris Hale

Alice Ostapjuk

Hands up, who’s been enjoying Chris Hale’s cookery masterclasses as much as us these past few months? Well, now we can let you in on another exciting part of the partnership…over the coming months we’re going to be releasing exclusive recipes, that Chris has created just for you, right here on the blog.

Chris was a quarterfinalist on MasterChef 2016 and has made a name for himself through his innovative cooking. He’s now the Executive Chef of The Award Winning Hepworth Museum. Expect healthy and easy to cook dishes that you can make in your apartment or with a bunch of friends in the mega kitchen.

IconInc

You've learnt how to cook healthy meals and pizza including the dough & delicious flatbreads in his first two masterclasses, well, now we can let you in on another exciting part of the...

We sat down with Chris to find out more about him and what’s to come:

Q: How did you get into cooking?

Chris: I’m actually completely self-taught. When I was 18 I went to Birmingham university to study sports science and when I got there, I realised for the first time that I needed to be able to feed myself. Thankfully, one of my house mates was a very good cook so we started to cook together. Each week we would go to the market together to buy ingredients and then we would just experiment with what we’d bought.

When I came home from uni, I started going to Leeds market and that was where I learnt most. Going down and getting that fresh produce every week, and buying something new each time.

Q: Did your cookery experiments ever go wrong?

Chris: Erm, yes haha! I once bought eel from the market. Did you know it has this cartilage that goes all the way through it? It’s so tough and honestly, it was absolutely vile. I didn’t know how to cook it, I didn’t know how to prep it, I kind of chopped it into round bits and tried to pan fry it. It was absolutely, genuinely disgusting. I took one bite and threw it in the bin.

Q: What was your go-to meal when you were at university?

Chris: My housemate and I messed around and experimented a lot. But our go-to came out of one of those days where there was absolutely nothing in the cupboard. We had a piece of salmon in the freezer, some couscous, a load of random spices and some chopped tomatoes. We threw it all in a pan and it worked out! We ate it every week because it was actually delicious.

Q: You’ve been hosting cookery masterclasses for our students lately. What have you enjoyed most about working with the students of IconInc?

Chris: For me, I feel like I’ve learnt just as much from them, as they’ve learnt from me, and I love that. I learnt about their cultures, their cuisines and their home comforts. When you’re away from home (and some these guys are thousands of miles away from their homes), you sometimes get homesick and you go back to those home comforts. I found the melting pot of all these different cultures at IconInc so exciting.

Q: We’ll soon be releasing a collection of healthy recipes, that you’ve created for us, which will be easy for the students to cook for themselves. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s in store?

Chris: It’s simple stuff but it’s also the kind of food that you would see on restaurant menus. We’ve got a fantastic Argentinian dish, which is steak with a chimichurri sauce – probably my favourite sauce in the world – it’s so good. It’s so simple!

Also, all of the dishes are there to be played with. That’s why I prefer cooking to baking, because I don’t like following a recipe. So the dishes I’ve created are open for people to come up with their own ideas and to give their own spin. I want the students to experiment or to change the dishes depending on what ingredients they have in stock. The shakshuka, for example, is a blank canvas and can be done in so many different ways.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs who live here at IconInc?

Chris: The best thing you can do is get experience. You’re in this unique situation at IconInc where you’re surrounded by people from all over the world so make the most of it! It’s about experimenting but don’t be disheartened if something doesn’t work out because even established chefs have dishes that don’t work out. I’ll let you in on a secret, some professional chefs will work on a new dish for up to four years before it comes on to their menu!

Q: Can you recommend a really versatile store cupboard ingredient that every student should keep in stock?

Chris: It’s got to be pasta – you can do so many things with it and make it a million different ways. Even just with butter, garlic and olives, it’s a really nice dish. For me, my first food memory is eating spaghetti Bolognese in Italy, it’s my biggest home comfort and my go-to dish.

Q: And lastly, what's the one thing we could all change to instantly improve our cooking?

Chris: One of the things which isn’t done enough, is when you’re cooking meat, people serve it straight away. But what you need to do is let it rest. With every meat you need to let it sit for ten minutes and let the juice come back in, then you’ll get that moisture.

Keep checking back on the blog for Chris’ recipes and be sure to show us your cookery skills by tagging #IconInc on Instagram.

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